City demands Facebook passwords from job applicants

Outraged applicants for government jobs in the US have been asked to supply usernames and passwords for their social networking accounts.

The city of Bozeman, Montana, asks that applicants provide login details for “any internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.”

Staff then review the accounts of applicants during the hiring process to conduct background checks on potential employees.

“Before we offer people employment in a public trust position we have a responsibility to do a thorough background check,” said Chuck Winn, Bozeman’s assistant city manager, speaking to CBS News. “This is just a component of a thorough background check.”

“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,” added Winn.

The likelihood of a child molester posting an admission to that fact on a social networking site is an issue best left to the HR department at the city of Bozeman.

However, there are legal problems with asking for social networking logins, even if applicants have no complaints about handing them over.

In the US, as in the UK, there are equal rights laws that prevent employers asking questions about an applicant’s religious beliefs, marital status and political affiliation. Much of this information is often held on social networking sites.

Many sites also forbid disclosing login details to a third party, meaning that anyone complying with the city of Bozeman’s request would be violating the terms and conditions of their account.

“You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account,” warns the Facebook terms and conditions.

“You agree not to use the account, username, or password of another Member at any time or to disclose your password to any third party,” mirrors the MySpace terms of use agreement.

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