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Password policy more prurient than practical

Submitted by on Sunday, 21 June 2009 One Comment

Credit reports, criminal history, references and past employment: All valid information for a potential employer, though credit reports aren’t relevant in all instances.

Anything the employer can turn up online about an applicant: Fair game. It’s the World Wide Web. You didn’t expect that stuff to stay secret, did  you?

A list of every personal or business Web site, Web page or membership on any Internet-based chat room, social club or forum, plus passwords for each: Whoa.

Apparently not in Bozeman, Mont., which has been requiring an exhaustive list from job applicants for years as part of a “routine” background check.

Suddenly, I think I’m interested in a position with the city’s human resources department. If they have enough time to check into all of that, work must be at a dang leisurely pace.

I’d love for them to have my MySpace account information, too. I haven’t signed on in almost a year. Maybe they could post some content for me and answer friend requests while they’re poking around. I’d be thrilled if they could even find all my accounts. I probably have a few dozen I don’t even remember. Wonder if they’d charge me with perjury for not listing them.

Funny thing is, even after publicity about the policy everywhere from the Drudge Report to Perez Hilton, the city still can’t admit that this is out of line. Reading the official press release  Friday was like watching that episode of “Happy Days” when Fonzie couldn’t admit he was “wr … wrrrr… wrrrrrr …” Nope. He just couldn’t say it.

And neither could Bozeman’s city manager, who, by the way, did not officially end the policy. It was merely suspended.

“Today’s decision to suspend the practice of inquiring into a candidate’s password protected Internet sites demonstrates a continued commitment to ensure the City’s hiring practices comply with state and federal law and protect the safety of Bozeman residents,” the release read.

Don’t let the fact that it’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy stop you, as long as it isn’t illegal.

The city attorney told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that officials have already been discussing ways to play electronic peeping Tom without asking for account log-in information.

“For example, city officials said they could ask applicants to log into their Facebook page and show it to a city official during the application process, or add the city as a ‘friend’ so the officials could view the applicant’s page,” the story said.

What part of “it’s none of your business” is confusing in Bozeman?

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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One Comment »

  • Daniel said:

    That’s interesting, I didn’t know either that the policy had merely been suspended in contrast to ended or that they’re still not backing down on getting the information one way or the other. Should just hire a couple hackers to do their dirty work for them.

    Amusingly, according to newsy.com’s video about the breach, Facebook has said it will get in touch with the city (if it hasn’t already) about the requirement, which is a violation of their Terms of Service. When a social media site can tell the government it’s out of line, you know it’s arrived.