Bozeman request: Big brother snooping, or legitimate request?

The city of Bozeman, with a population of 25,000 people in southwestern Montana, likely isn't one you heard of recently. However, it's in the news after a city job requirement has drawn heavy criticism over possible privacy issues.

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,, MySpace, etc."

The application also gives room for three different web sites, account names and passwords, according to the applicant.

There are obvious privacy concerns related to what the city is attempting to do here, regardless of whether or not an applicant has something possibly incriminating posted on a social networking web site.  

In Article 2, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution, it says "the right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest."

"So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here," Bozeman city attorney Greg Sullivan told local media.  "So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City."

It's possible Bozeman may create an official Facebook page where they have the ability to view an applicant's profile without the ability of looking at that persons friends through the site.

City officials say no applicants elected to refuse to turn over social networking information and end their application process.

It's interesting to hear that a city seeks to have a peek at an applicant's MySpace or Facebook profile as part of the application process.  There are a growing number of professors and experts who warn college students and young people that they should be extremely careful what they publicly post on the internet, though normally companies don't have direct access to a person's account.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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