Yipes! The City of Bozeman, Montana is not playing around when it comes to doing online background checks of prospective employees.
I like to warn young professionals, in particular, from time to time that it would be in their best interest to keep their online presence "G" rated and controversy-free if they like being gainfully employed. Most employers have long since figured out how to Google their job candidates just in case.
But the City of Bozeman is taking it a step further; one really big step further.
Woa! If this is considered legal, then I think our constitutional right to privacy just went code blue.
This makes my skin crawl. Let me count the ways:
1. Public image is one thing. A person's private life, whether online or in the material world, should remain just that; private! If it is so private that you need a password to access it; then that's a big clue it falls under "private life".
2. If a city is recruiting a really high profile position in the community, like police chief, then "yes" it might be wise to make sure he or she isn't pole dancing in a thong on youtube. Right now, the City of Bozeman is looking for someone to work in the water/sewer department. For that, do the town fathers really need to peek at their top candidates' Facebook page? I say pole dance all you want and thank you for being willing to wade in poo poo water to keep the pipes maintained.
3. This is for job candidates. So, whether you get the job or not; you have to reset all your passwords?
4. What kind of security measures are in place to protect the privacy of someone's online passwords from the peering eyes of anyone who may have access to those applications? Are they kept on file?
5. Most people don't have compromising information on their profile pages of LinkedIn or Facebook or Blogger. But, it can include personal information that would bias an employer to keep looking for another candidate. We all know that an employer is not allowed to ask intimate questions during a job interview like "Do you plan on getting pregnant anytime soon?" or "Do you go to church?" or "What's your sexual orientation?". These are the kinds of details that an employer could just conveniently gleen in the name of vetting a candidate's online image. For example, my son has autism. There are some employers that might avoid hiring me if they knew that. They might assume an extra burden of higher health insurance premiums for my family or more employee absenteism to tend to a child with a disability. I don't mind saying it, because I wouldn't want to work for anyone like that anyway. But, not everyone has a choice. And in my case, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that I have a child with autism from all the puzzle piece ribbons, etc on some of my private profile pages.