NEWS FROM THE LAB - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would You Give Your Facebook Password for a Job Application? Posted by Alia @ 01:53 GMT

CNN.com carried a recent news article about the city of Bozeman, Montana, USA, which has been pressured into removing an item in its background-check waiver form requesting all applicants for to disclose their account names and passwords for social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Youtube.

The change in policy is attributed to a furore that arose after one applicant contacted the Montana's News Station expressing concern about that particular aspect of the background check.

The city justified the login details request as just another part of an extensive background check they perform on all employees. The precautions were meant to ensure that those holding positions where they'd be handling the city's funds or operations will be reputable and honest. And presumably smart enough not to post details of any objectionable activity they might engage in online.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle also mentioned that elected city commissioner's weren't affected by the policy, only city employees.

What's actually rather interesting to consider is that the policy has apparently been in force for about three years and according to city attorney Greg Sullivan, "No one has ever removed his or her name from consideration for a job due to the request". Rather begs the question, did they really give up their login details? Provide fake ones? Or just ignore the request?

And yes, legally, the policy does appear to be on some seriously shaky ground. Unlike some states – or countries – Montana's state constitution explicitly guarantees a citizen's right to privacy.

The request for login details was quickly removed last week. Still, it appears the city is still keen on checking applicants' online behavior, as "officials are looking at ways to alter the policy so that they might view an applicant's online information without asking for log-in codes".