This is what’s happening in the city of Bozeman, with a population of 25,000 people in southwestern Montana, US of A as reported by DailyTech:
An anonymous citizen who applied for a city job alerted local media that he or she had to provide log-in information and passwords for any and all social networking web sites they use while applying for a job with the city.
Along with the normal background check, criminal history, education and employment past, the following is written into the Bozeman city employment waiver statement:
“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.”
Now that almost everyone is using more than a couple of social networking websites, a blog or two, the existence of an ‘alternate world’ becomes more real on the Internet. Sometimes, or more often than not, this dichotomy results in two versions of ourselves that have a degree of difference.
We may be shy, timid and the quiet type in person, but out there in the world wide web especially in social networking sites, we may be one of the celebrities with hundreds of friends, loyal fans, subscribers to our blog and followers to our lifestream.
Now, the city government of Bozeman wants to look into that “alternate persona” its applicants have, on top of the usual background check.
This brings up a lot of privacy rights concerns as laws today still safeguard our privacy vigorously. Sure, some would argue that if we have not done something questionable or “incriminating” online, what is there to hide?
But that’s not the point, it is our right to privacy that is being attacked here once more. Dangling a job opportunity in exchange for that right, especially in this tough economic times, is something that’s just not good and downright discriminatory.
If a court case does arise out of this, it would set an important precedent for all employers. And it should remind them that educational background and working experience should be the only qualifications they should use to say whether we are fit for the job or not. Even if it’s the government.