City of Bozeman Causes a Stir

*Update*

The City of Bozeman apologized and has said they will stop asking for social media passwords:

“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,” City Manager Chris A. Kukulski said in a statement.

“This was an honest mistake,” he continued. “Human Resources, our Police and Fire Departments were doing something they believed was consistent with our core values. I take full responsibility for this decision and we will work hard to regain the trust and confidence of the City Commission and our community.”

*End Update*

The City of Bozeman, Montana, has caused a bit of a stir with a requirement in their job application.  Their job application requires potential hires to provide the City with usernames and passwords to any social networks they belong to:

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. [source: Background check waiver, pdf file]

They mention Google, but I wonder if that includes Google’s email service, Gmail.

The City doesn’t seem to be worried about the privacy implications of requiring applicants to give up their logins, because the city attorney had this to say to the local media:

“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. [emphasis added]

So trust us, we are only looking on your Facebook pages for things that aren’t covered under Freedom of Speech.

The local news station has a followup story here.

The City Manager provided the reasoning for the requirement for login information:

City Manager Chris Kukulski said the city checks the sites in order to ensure that employees who might be handling taxpayer money, working with children in recreation programs or entering residents’ homes as an emergency services worker are reputable and honest.

This might be true, but employers didn’t have access to this type of information prior to social networks, and still they made employment decisions.

I find it hard to believe that someone would ask for your logins on an employment application, let alone a public organization.  A respect for social networking tools would allow the City of Bozeman to spread the work about their community, but instead they are getting flamed on Twitter and elsewhere.  I take special note of this comment on Slashdot:

This has certainly done a lot of damage to our credibility as a tech friendly city (there are strong optics and software/service companies already operating here).