Social networking sites and job professionalism do not mix. This fact has been established by too many photo tag-happy individuals who cannot keep their privacy settings straight. Just assume that your prospective employers, university admission officers, and even your Craigslist ride-share will be entering your name into the Friend Finder search box on Facebook. Setting new standards in the Questionable Privacy Priorities category is the City of Bozeman of the Big Sky State Montana. As Montana's News Station reported yesterday, a viewer expressed concern of the city's enthusiastic background check policy. This policy states that applicants must present social networking account log-in user names and password, in order to be considered eligible for application processing.
Along with references and criminal history, the following request is made: "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." Three lines are provided for applicants to provide the information.
The city argues that it takes privacy rights seriously, but balances that against the need to ensure employees will "protect the public trust." Such employees include firefighters, police officers and city hall workers.
City Attorney Greg Sullivan assured the news station that information protected by federal constitutional privacy is not used. But there is no barrier from accessing information about applicants' friends, as well as to eligibility-neutral profile sections. As ReadWriteWeb commented today, demographics such as ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and others would be in plain view.
As a proposed alternative, the city could require applicants to add its own page to their friend network, an option which is currently under review. Sullivan also stated that this practice has not caused an applicant to withdraw employment request.