How much information are you willing to disclose to snag a
job? Most companies already insist on background checks, but Bozeman, MT, is
asking applicants for city positions to submit their social networking
usernames and passwords. Guess I won’t be applying there anytime soon.
Granted, submitting this
information is voluntary. Still, how far is too far? Here’s the city’s
argument (via Chuck Winn, Bozeman’s assistant city manager):
“Shame on us if there was information out
there available about a person who applied for a job who was a child molester
or had some sort of information out there on the Internet that kind of showed
those propensities and we didn’t look for it, we didn’t ask, and we hired that
person. In many ways we would have let the public down.”
Interesting. The child molester argument is certainly a good one for proponents
of this new measure, but let’s take it down a notch.
I try to keep my Facebook page fairly innocuous, but I don’t
necessarily want my mother or boss stumbling across my page and poking around.
For this reason, I have privacy settings. Why don’t I want my mom/boss/stranger
viewing my page? Not because I’m a child molester, but because I’m a different
person for my friends (it’s social networking, remember) than I am for
my boss. I don’t want potential employers forming a skewed opinion of who I am
as an employee because they chance upon a picture of me out at a bar.
More importantly, I don’t think I should be asked to share who I am
outside of work with future employers. What if a potential employer disapproved
of drinking? What if they were a fundamentalist (insert a religion here), saw that I was Hindu and disapproved?
Does refusing to submit my username and password open me up
to reasonable suspicion? Is it similar to refusing to take part in voluntary
Let’s face it, in a perfect world, we would all like
Google to inform us before we hire a child molester, or date a cheater, or
friend a cat-killer. One little search and Bam! We don’t have to risk being
hurt, or conned. But there’s only so much we can do and there’s only so much we
can expect before we start trampling over the very important right to free speech and privacy.
We’ve all been warned to be careful what you put up on the
internet, and that’s fair enough – Google is a tool that any employer has the
right to use. But asking you to turn over usernames and passwords is going too
far. I kinda like these First Amendment rights of mine.