Montana City Asks Job Applicants for Online Passwords

bozeman

Would you want a potential employer scanning your Facebook wall or clicking through photos of you with family and friends?

Well, if you apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, Mont., you might run that risk.

On the city's Web site, a waiver statement for background and reference checks asks job applicants to release information about personal, professional and social networking Web sites, including log-in information and passwords.

"Please list any and all, current personal or business web sites, 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 document reads.

An anonymous viewer contacted WBZK TV in Bozeman expressing privacy concerns over the policy. Since the station aired a story on the requirement Wednesday evening, Bozeman City Commissioner Sean Becker said e-mails and phone calls expressing outrage from across the country have been pouring in.

Outrage Pours In From Coast to Coast

"The commission was blindsided by this," he said. "We had no idea that the background checks went to that level." He said city officials have been "overwhelmed with calls from the East to the West coasts."

Becker said that while the city needed to weigh privacy rights against the public's right to know about those whom the city hires, he said that this requirement "seems exceedingly invasive and unwarranted, and that perception needs to be dealt with straight on."

As a Facebook member, Becker acknowledged that disclosing personal password information directly violates the social networking site's Terms of Service.

In addition to violating Facebook's policies, a company spokesman told ABCNews.com that they think it violates personal privacy and plan to reach out to city officials to discuss it further.

For the requirement to be suspended, three of the city's five commissioners would need to oppose it, Becker said.

Although the commissioners are not able to meet until Monday, he expected they would vote to eliminate it at that meeting.

Commissioners Eric Bryson and Jeff Krauss also told ABCNews.com that they did not support the requirement.

"Would the city administration insist on entry into an applicant's home to rifle through their correspondence files? Would they want permission to tap their phones?" Krauss asked in an e-mail. "This is a bridge too far."

Commissioners Believe Requirement Is 3 Years Old

Bryson said that when he learned of the requirement through Internet stories highlighting its "absurdity," his initial reaction was "one of disbelief.

"While I can understand the requirement for highly sensitive positions within the city, this is not a requirement that I support for general employment purposes," he said.

Chris Kukulski, who has been the city manager since 2004, said it was his understanding that the human resources department had been asking for social networking and other online information for the past three or four years.

And though he didn't recall debating the policy with his staff members, he acknowledged that his office approved it.

"There's no doubt. I am responsible for the organization," he told ABC News. "This wasn't something that was thoroughly debated among our staff."

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