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Raising privacy and civil liberties issues, job applicants to the city of Bozeman are not only required to list all their social media accounts, but their passwords as well. "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. The application shows a space for passwords.

City of Bozeman Demands Passwords from Job Applicants

Raising privacy and civil liberties issues, job applicants to the city of Bozeman are not only required to list all their social media accounts, but their passwords as well.

“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. The application shows a space for passwords.

According to KBZK, the local news station, which said it was tipped to the requirement by an anonymous source, city attorney Greg Sullivan said this was required to ensure employees will protect the public trust. He also added that no applicant had removed their name from consideration due to the requirement.

“In order for us to get access to the chosen candidate’s information, we need to be able to view their page,” Sullivan said, according to a transcript of the interview. “And so that’s the way we’ve chosen to go about doing it. As far as we know, there’s no other way to get into their specific Face book page.”

That is, of course, incorrect — as the station’s reporter pointed out, the city of Bozeman could create its own page and ask applicants to link to it, which would give them access to their pages. Such ignorance of social networking creates troubling questions of what other mistakes could be made by handing over the passwords.

In addition to the privacy aspects — which would enable city employees to post items under the applicant’s name, and make or delete friends — some social networking sites consider passing on passwords to be a violation of their terms of service, which some judges have ruled is a criminal act.

About Sharon Fisher

Comments

  1. Andrew Karlsen says:

    This story sounds crazy but if it is true it might serve as an indicator as to how tech savvy the city of Bozeman is.
    Also I wonder what the city does with the document submitted that has usernames and passwords written on it.

  2. Dave D says:

    and the stupidity just keeps on rollin!

  3. Sharon Fisher says:

    As far as what they do with the document, according to the transcript:

    “One thing that’s important, too, is that once we ask for that password and we do the review, that password is protected. We don’t share that password with anybody. We keep it in a secure personnel file. And it never goes anywhere beyond that. So it’s kept private. We ensure that in this balanc ing of the public trust with our employees and the person’s privacy interest, we make sure that every step of the way we’re cog­nizant of protecting the privacy.”

  4. Carter Young says:

    In regards to privacy, this is somewhat akin to having the city of Bozeman ask applicants for the keys to their house and car–and their bank codes–so that the city can ensure that the applicant doesn’t eat at the wrong restaurant, or subscribe to magazines that are contrary to the Bozeman way of life, or has written checks to opponents of the current city councilmembers.

    I don’t think this requirement for social networking disclosure would stand up in court, but if it ever went to suit, I’d like to hear the city’s arguments.

  5. Naz says:

    Is it April 1st already?

    Perhaps the city should also be requesting persnal photo-albums, old yearbooks, and those audiotapes we made of us farting around the campfire.

    This is laughable…(and cryable.)

  6. Sharon Fisher says:

    great analogy, Carter

  7. AnonyMoose says:

    One thing that this has made abundantly clear: there are some frikkin’ idiots in Bozeman city government. Morons, I tells ya! Morons!

  8. Patia says:

    Ridiculous. If it’s not illegal, it should be.

  9. Dave Skinner says:

    Big Bruddah,
    Meet Baby Bruddah.
    Asinine.

  10. Andrew Karlsen says:

    My favorite part is “As far as we know, there’s no other way to get into their specific Face book (sic) page”.
    Bozeman (and their attorney) should ‘learn 2 internet’. LOL

  11. Sharon Fisher says:

    That one’s my fault. The site that posted the transcript used smart quotes, which when I copied them came through as spaces, and I took out most of the spaces but I missed that one.

  12. samh says:

    Wow. Cry-able is right, Naz.

  13. Peter says:

    Thank you, Sharon for the story. I’ll be discussing it this weekend on the air. Would you like to call in and fill in the blanks? http://www.anticrapradio.com.

  14. Sharon Fisher says:

    I’d love to but it’s a pretty crazy weekend. What time would this be?

  15. Peter says:

    We’re ‘live’ from 9 – 11 am this Saturday/6-20. We’ll be talking about it on our “Dick of the Day” segment. Top of the second hour. but you could call anytime and we’ll do a ‘breaking news’ thing. :) (406) 728-0093 or toll free @ 1-800-568-5309.

  16. Sharon Fisher says:

    top of the second hour — so, at 10? I will do my very best — I’m supposed to be doing something, but I’ll try to delegate that for a while. thanks!

  17. peter says:

    Whatever works for ya. And Jonathon (Weber) is a new ‘friend’. And…I’ve put it as the headline on our anti-crap website. Thanks again. Peter

  18. jdj says:

    I have no intention of being an apologist for the City of Bozeman but clearly whoever wrote this into the requirements had no idea what they were dealing with in terms of the technology (and law) nor did they understand the illegality of screening for “high moral values” when it has nothing to do with the job. Rather than aiming at the entire city of Bozeman administration, lay this blunder at the feet of the city manager, attorney, and commission.

  19. J. Solomon says:

    Fair enough about the responsibility point. I agree that those responsible should be held to account for their actions. As for ignorance? I believe the adage “ignorance is no excuse form the law” sums up what is wrong with that defense. If you don’t understand that asking for a person’s login/password information for a private social network is akin to listening in on phone conversations, you should not be making decisions about these things.

    In other words, the problem here is absolutely that these people didn’t know what they were doing. If only they had asked somebody educated on the topic instead of just blindly making illegal policy they could have avoided this whole problem. Heck, I think that’s a good general policy.

  20. jeff says:

    At least at the City of Bozeman, I think the Commission will put a stop to it. There may be adequate reasons for it to vet the President’s cabinet, but not for job applicants at the City. And it’s certainly not a requirement to be a Commissioner, or even City Manager!!

    It’s tantamount to asking to tap your phone or ask to enter your home and look through old letters from your Mother.

    I wouldn’t suffer such an inquisition as a commissioner and I won’t ask job applicants to either. I’d guess there are two other commissioners who will think the same.

    I was told today that it’s been going on for three years or more, a policy decision that the city manager neglected to ask the mayor or the commission for permission to implement.

    There’s something dark in the idea that we should peruse a person’s personal correspondence for anything to be used against them.

    I believe the screening and interview process has been so dumbed down that tough questions and hard judgments have been replaced with personal privacy invasions.

    There will be an accounting for this.

    The issue will be discussed Monday night at the city commission meeting, although it is too late to put on the agenda for any decision making. Public comment will be welcome at City Hall shortly after six monday night.

    BTW, not all Bozeman city commissioners are facebook or social network illiterates. I wrote a few columns for New West when I was Mayor, and can be found commenting occasionally here and there. But no commissioner, whether twitter/facebook ready or computer illiterate, wrote that policy.

    Jeff Krauss

  21. J. Solomon says:

    I find it humorous (in the most frightening of ways) that this is slated for discussion Monday. I believe that violations of constitutionally protected rights (even if not by federal law, by Montana law) are open for discussion. At some level this is like us holding open debates as to whether we can illegally detain people indefinitely without trial.

    I wish it weren’t a sardonic joke when I made that last comment. If the city does not immediately cease and desist policy which openly violates the rights of American citizens, I hope they are brought up on criminal charges.

  22. J. Solomon says:

    I apologize, rights are NOT open for discussion.

  23. J. Solomon says:

    to: “No one of consequence”

    If the Obama administration had asked for the keys to people’s gunsafes and mailboxes this might be on par. Asking whether an applicant owns a weapon might be construed as a violation of privacy, but certainly it is not a violation in the same way that the Bozeman City Govt. has violated applicants rights.

    The city requested that they breach a contract with a 3rd party by sharing account information. Further, with this information they have access to personal interaction which is not available to the public. Effectively they are requiring that the applicants open mail in front of them.

    Recently there has been quite a stir about illegal activity within the NSA with regards to illegal access of e-mail. Any access of this sort of information would likely violate the ECPA. This extension to electronic information was upheld in the first circuit appeals court.

    In other words, if the Bozeman City council didn’t have a court order, they broke the law. They had better get on the retroactive court orders fast, or they are looking at some fantastic lawsuits.

  24. "No one of consequence". says:

    What has this to do with Constitutionally protected free speech and lawful gun ownership? Ask another question, Counselor.

  25. Sharon Fisher says:

    Yes, I don’t see anything about the Obama campaign requesting passwords. That’s the real problem.

  26. J. Solomon says:

    to “No One”

    I am not sure I follow. Perhaps I am mistaken in thinking that you meant that they were the same. At some level I agree either way that asking about protected acts might be a violation, though that isn’t really the issue here. They didn’t ask about some protected act, they asked to directly scan through people’s protected information. It’s the difference between opening someone’s mail and asking what’s in the mail. they might both be violations, but different in kind.

    If you weren’t meaning to equate the two that’s fine.
    If instead you were commenting on the person above’s inappropriate conflation of the two, then I’m right with you.

    I am sorry if I mistook your position.

    And I wouldn’t give anyone my passwords without a court order. Period.

  27. "No one of consequence". says:

    The passwords are nothing but an added “Who in the hell do you think you are?” to an already “How Dare You!” If you blog on a kiddie porn site or have unlawfully shot someone, those questions can reasonably asked in the criminal history section. Otherwise it’s like the aforementioned sexual orientation question. YOU DON’T GET TO ASK THAT!

    The tidbit that Obama didn’t ask for passwords makes it alright for you?

    “Come on! Just tell us if you did it.”
    5th Amendment.
    “But we want to know!”
    Tough.
    Get it?

  28. "No one of consequence". says:

    OK. If the person wants the job enough to submit to a daily body cavity search, they can suffer what ever indignities they are told to. I hope working for the Fed is everything they thought it would be.

    I would never.

  29. Sharon Fisher says:

    I know I looked at the application for the Obama administration, but I frankly don’t remember whether it asked for Facebook IDs, etc., and I’d want to see some primary source material before going down that line of discussion.

  30. "No one of consequence". says:

    What do you mean by IDs?

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/Obama_Administration_Questionnaire.pdf

    (10) Writings: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate on the Internet.

    (58) Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g., Facebook, My Space, etc.)

    (59) Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.

  31. J. Solomon says:

    Though of course asking whether you own a gun and if it’s registered is in principle only a specific extension of the question about criminality. In principle they are asking “do you or your family own an unlicensed gun?”

    Also if your issue is whether the government gets to ask if you own a gun, then gun registration is the issue. The Obama administration isn’t the problem there. The particular group you want for that nugget of legal joy is the Johnson administration. Or perhaps any of the administrations since that have increased firearms restrictions and registration requirements.

    The point is. Yes, they do get to have that information. But you’re blaming the wrong guy.

  32. jeff says:

    That seems pretty primary a source. And yes, I think the questions attempt to skirt or outright defy first and second amendment rights. I agree that asking for aliases and handles and every single post and blog comment would be excessive in the same way, but not to the degree that asking for passwords is.

    Thanks for the better link. If the City admins try to pull the “Obama does it” on the Commission, I’ll be ready. I don’t think Presidential cabinet and water department worker are equivalent, and I don’t buy the excuses proffered on the CBS website by city admins.

    I do think this will be ended a week from Monday night or sooner if a special meeting is called after Monday night’s discussion.

  33. J. Solomon says:

    To continue the gun point. The only firearms you might list here that they don’t have the right to know about are illegal unlicensed firearms. Guess what, you don’t have 2nd amendment protection to own those since they are illegal.

    With regards to asking what you have authored. In principle those are all matters of public record. On facebook and other social networking sites anything which you do not desire to be part of public record can be controlled by filters. Essentially you can filter who you talk to. The difference here is that the internet is like a public square, what you say there is everyone’s business. Unless it is specifically an area where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as password protected e-mail and correspondence. note password protection gives reasonable expectation of privacy. The rest of the internet doesn’t

    the administration is only asking for your public material.

    Bozeman is asking for your personal correspondence.

  34. "No one of consequence". says:

    By J. Solomon, 6-18-09

    Though of course asking whether you own a gun and if it’s registered is in principle only a specific extension of the question about criminality. In principle they are asking “do you or your family own an unlicensed gun?”

    “No, they are not. They are ordering, as a condition of employment, that you rat out your Wife, Dad, Mom, sibs and kids.”

    Also if your issue is whether the government gets to ask if you own a gun, then gun registration is the issue. The Obama administration isn’t the problem there. The particular group you want for that nugget of legal joy is the Johnson administration. Or perhaps any of the administrations since that have increased firearms restrictions and registration requirements.

    “I have my own issues with gun registration as it is applied. The question however is being asked now, by the Obama hiring team.”

    The point is. Yes, they do get to have that information. But you’re blaming the wrong guy.

    “Yes, they have the information (as far as they know). Yes, they can ask the question. And if someone wants the job enough that they will endure a finger wave, you have a good idea of what the senior members of this administration think you should submit to on their orders. Who would put up with that crap unless they thought the power would be worth the pain?”

  35. "No one of consequence". says:

    If someone asks a question, what information are they trying to gather? Do you have a gun? I don’t know, can I?

    Do you blog? I don’t know, can I?

    Does what you say/write/post agree with us? I don’t know, does it have to?

    I thought it was the Conservatives that were marching in lock step. What happened to the free spirted, free thinking Liberals?

  36. J. Solomon says:

    I am not sure I follow directly what your point is anymore. On the one hand it seems as though you are trying to argue that what is wrong with Bozeman’s govt is that they did the same thing as the Obama administration. On the other hand you say that if people are willing to put up with what the Obama administration is doing that it’s their problem.

    It may be the case that there is something fishy about asking about gun possession. However, that is a red herring to the issue at hand.

    With regards to the internet point however I think my point stands. What you do on the internet, unless specially password protected, is public record. Just look at the news monitoring the twittering by politicians. Social networks serve as a public sounding board, and thus we shouldn’t be surprised when we are called to account what we say in ‘public’. However, that is a far cry from the password protected content that has been held up as private and protected by the united states courts.

    In theory the Obama administration is just asking for a hand on this one. “Help us find out the crazy stuff you have said in the public record.” You not only have no expectation of privacy, but can at best plead the 5th, but if you said something that bad in the public record, good luck.

    Again. The password is the real issue.

  37. J. Solomon says:

    ‘Missing the point’ segued into an ‘ad populum indirect – appeal to vanity’.

    Again, if you have said anything illegal plead the 5th, if you said anything else in the public record, you actually do have to account for it. If you are the author of anti-government material, that would be protected by the 1st amendment. However, you likely wouldn’t be considered for many governmental positions.

  38. dan says:

    “no one”,
    this is about the bozeman city commission asking for private information. obama and guns are not mentioned anywhere so please stop hijacking the commentary.

  39. Sharon Fisher says:

    Yes, I see a big distinction between “give us the URLs” and “give us the password.”

  40. peter says:

    This story migrated to Facebook and now back again. This was posted by a friend who lives in Bozeman. (I’m from Darby – land of the free, home of the ?????). Dear City of Bozeman – #6 on the Facebook Account Security Agreement that I “signed”: You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account. Sorry! Feel free to POST THIS.

  41. Sharon Fisher says:

    Yes, that’s in the story.

  42. jeff says:

    There is certainly a matter of degree in the comparison, both in the nature of the jobs and the password question. But I disagree that the password issue is the only issue, from a policy standpoint.

    Obama’s vetting didn’t just ask for “urls”. It’s a bit disingenuous to say that. They asked for any comment or blog entry ever posted, as well as any anonymous handle, alias or login used on any website, chat room, forum, etc.

    I’ve got no skin in the Obama issue, but it seems that some of you, justifiably appalled at the password issue, are comfortable asking potential employees for any anonymous comment, alias, or login used on any website, chat room, forum anywhere ever.

    I’m not.

  43. Sharon Fisher says:

    Well, “No one” quoted the Obama application as saying,

    “(58) Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g., Facebook, My Space, etc.)”

    That looks like just a URL address to me.

  44. Bin says:

    This is demented. Why would the City of Bozeman think requesting private passwords is acceptable? They are out of their tree!

  45. Cosmic Cowboy says:

    Next they will want to know which church you go to if any, if you belong to the NRA, what social clubs, or environmental groups you support, if it wasn’t so asinine the fathers of Bozeman should have to make all their private life details public before asking for this from job applicants, it is insane. Just another notch in the gun for those slowly killing what was once a great small town.

  46. Triple C says:

    “…city attorney Greg Sullivan said this was required to ensure employees will PROTECT THE PUBLIC TRUST.” This is akin to platitudes such as “We’re doing this for your safety.” and “We’re doing this for the children.” These types of rationales allow unethical figures with authority to get away with things that would otherwise be considered absurd.

  47. Bob Wire says:

    In the Brave New World that is cyber-communication, this is just the latest clumsy example of some entity trying to figure out how to control or manage the dissemination of information, and how to use it to their advantage. They wind up with egg on their face.

    We all know about privacy issues and the First Amendment, but no one has yet determined a boilerplate set of rights as far as what our internet “entitlements” are. It’s the blind leading the naked.

    I’m not particularly a big fan of online social networking, but I gotta say: Bozeman, get over yourself.

  48. Interested Observer says:

    I think it is fine…(here is the caveat)

    After all of the elected people and department heads in Bozeman, provide their confidential passwords, etc for their private life websites, their complete financial records, etc to citizens of Bozeman!

    The Mayor and Council are elected by the people and the people should know what they look at. And the department heads are in charge of each facet of the city, so that seems reasonable for the people to see what they look at.

    It seems only fair after all, these other people only want to work for the city, not run it.

  49. Interested Observer says:

    Sometimes I wonder if a person running for elected office has some kind of “nanny complex”. Always knowing what is best for everyone else. Not trusting people to take care of their own lives.
    Yes, there are always the idiots who cause problems and lead to “well meaning” restrictions on the rest of us, but for crying out loud, this gets old.

    Time to vote people out of office. Especially, if they do not want to let the sunshine fully into their lives, first!

    Lead by example Mayor and Council, lead by example!!!!!

  50. Dewey says:

    Well, it’s not the end of the world…at least they let you keep your Firstborn.

    Then again , it’s good to know they are doing a first rate job of vetting those sanitation workers and summer pothole and petunia crews. In my town of Cody Wy , all you need to get a job with the City is to be mostly caucasian without too many tatoos and visible piercings , and most importantly have a pulse…

    Somebody needs to take the Bozeman HR department to the woodshed over this, if true.

  51. jeff says:

    “By Sharon Fisher, 6-19-09
    Well, “No one” quoted the Obama application as saying,

    “(58) Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g., Facebook, My Space, etc.)”

    That looks like just a URL address to me.”

    Well, Ms Fisher, you must not have read this requirement, as posted by “no one” very closely. A handle or an alias is clearly NOT A URL.

    “(10) Writings: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

    So I’ll ask again. Are you comfortable with the City of Bozeman asking for this information, which is clearly neither “just URLs” nor “passwords”.

    Because I’m not. I don’t care if someone logs on as “Ilikembig” on “BustsRus.com” on their own time and it should not be a concern of our government. There’s too much spooky puritanism involved in this whole affair. This isn’t just ignorance of social networking.

    I’m not okay with it. Not with requiring the passwords, and not with requiring the aliases and handles and logins and certainly not any and all posts on blogs and other websites.

    As for “Interested Observer”; this was done without the advice, consent or knowledge of the City Commission. The city manager admits this and even claims it’s not in our purview to oversee hiring policy. The other three commissioners and I aren’t going to accept that and we will change the policy.

    The “vote them out of office” is just so much tea party nonsense.

  52. jim says:

    Some where right this very minute, in some law firm, the partners are having one of their summer interns fill out an application for a job in Boezman, and just going to sit back and pounce. Its none of Boesmans business, hope they have a large enough budget to cover all the legal challenges.

  53. peter says:

    This just in: “Power to the People” and thank you Sharon for the story.

    For Immediate Release:

    The City of Bozeman believes we have a responsibility to ensure candidates hired for positions of public trust are subject to a thorough background check. The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman. Effective at 12:00 p.m. today, Friday June 19, 2009, the City of Bozeman permanently ceased the practice of requesting candidates selected for City positions under a provisional job offer to provide user names and passwords for the candidate’s internet sites.

    Chris A. Kukulski

    City Manager

  54. mhg says:

    As an FYI… This story was just mentioned on KREM (ch 2) evening news here in Spokane tonight. Looks like it will be on the 6pm broadcast — the promo showed, what seemed to be, an on camera interview with a Bozeman city employee. Should be interesting…

  55. Bigskybum says:

    Who would want to only hire cowardly sycophants anyways?

  56. earthdowser says:

    This is nothing more than the city of Bozeman weeding out any conservative or religious person from being hired. They want to make sure that the city is run by liberals and that it stays that way. Typical liberals: they do not tolerate descent in any way!! Knowing your thoughts, communications, your likes and dislikes tells them everything they want to know about you.

  57. Sharon Fisher says:

    I actually don’t know the politics of the Bozeman city council — or, more likely, city administrators; I doubt that the city council gets into that level of detail.

    Ironically, I’d been thinking it indicated that they were conservative, because it showed that they didn’t understand the Internet and were suspicious of anything on it. Interesting how it demonstrates the principle of ascribing the behavior one dislikes to the groups one dislikes, when the two are not necessarily related.

  58. “No One of Consequence”. says:

    Talked with my sister over the weekend. She works in HR for an outpatient medical office. She told me that I got it wrong when I said that there was a Constitutional protection for what you write. It’s just that there isn’t anything on a MySpace or Facebook page that HR is allowed to use. She used examples of; how you look in a swim suit, wither/what kind of relationship you are in, pictures of you partying and if you are friends with Kid Rock and the Budweiser ring girls. It’s just not part of the application process.

  59. jeff says:

    stay tuned