| Sunday May 29th 2016

City in Montana requires job applicants to hand over all social network logins and passwords for background checks

Applying for a job with the City of Bozeman, Montana? You may be asked to provide more personal information than you expected.

Bozeman, Montana applicationThat was the case for one person who applied for employment with the City. The anonymous viewer emailed the news station recently to express concern with a component of the city’s background check policy, which states that to be considered for a job applicants must provide log-in information and passwords for social network sites in which they participate.

The requirement is included on a waiver statement applicants must sign, giving the City permission to conduct an investigation into the person’s “background, references, character, past employment, education, credit history, criminal or police records.”

“Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.,” the City form states. There are then three lines where applicants can list the Web sites, their user names and log-in information and their passwords.

The requirement raises questions concerning applicants’ privacy rights.

Article 2, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution reads “the right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.”

The City takes privacy rights very seriously, but this request balances those rights with the City’s need to ensure employees will protect the public trust, according to city attorney Greg Sullivan.

“So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City,” Sullivan said.

Another concern the applicant raised was that by providing the City with a Facebook user name and password the City not only has access to the applicant’s page but also to the pages belonging to all of the applicant’s Facebook “friends.”

“You know, I can understand that concern. One thing that’s important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don’t use those. We’re not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we’re not able to use or shouldn’t use in the hiring process,” Sullivan said.

When asked about creating a separate Bozeman Facebook page, then asking applicants to add the City as “friend,” thus allowing the City to view the applicant’s profile, Sullivan said officials could explore the option. This would limit the city to only view the page of the applicant.

No one has ever removed his or her name from consideration for a job due to the request, Sullivan added.


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