Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bozeman Requires Applicants to Give Up Social Site Passwords

Every time I think I have heard it all, I hear something new. Slowly but steadily, our constitutional rights have been eroded, and we have let them. People say either that a) if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn't matter, or b) it's worth it to keep us safe from terrorists (or whatever is the fear of the moment).

I read on L'Atelier about new rules passed by the City of Bozeman, Montana. The new employment application for city jobs includes a place to list all websites, social networking sites and forums, including but not limited to Facebook, MySpace, Google, and Yahoo, including user name and password, as a condition of application. Just to have your application processed, this section must be filled out.

I thought this was a little extreme, so did a little checking. What did I find? An article on Montana dot com has the same story.

According to the city, it's important that they hire candidates who will "ensure the public trust." City Attorney Greg Sullivan stated,

"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. 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," Sullivan said."

An attorney said this? Maybe he needs to read the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), or the numerous other laws relating to employment discrimination. The key point he needs to understand, is that social networking sites, websites, etc., will likely suggest race, age, and possibly sexual orientation. They very likely (and almost certainly) tell marital status, and whether or not someone has children. Disability isn't always evident, but people often join forums or other groups to network with others who share a common condition.

Interviews will obviously tell an employer your gender and possibly your age - although not always. Many people earned a degree outside of the "normal" timeline and even though applications ask for high school graduation dates, they are not required. Anything on an application that suggests age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability does not have to be included and cannot be asked in an interview or be asked of your references.

Actually, disability does not have to be disclosed at all. Ever. Even after employment. I've had employers hand employees pages to fill out asking for an entire medical history, current diagnoses, prescriptions taken, and doctors someone is seeing. Some states have specific laws dealing with employees working with substance abuse clients, etc., but I'm talking about employment in general.

What is interesting about this story, is that:

"Article 2, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution reads "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."

I'm having a hard time seeing that the City of Bozeman has a compelling state interest in checking up on what someone is posting on Facebook or what discussions they may be posting to.

If it's legal, isn't that enough? Since when does our employer get to tell us what is moral? Who gets to make that decision? By what right? What if my idea of moral is different than yours? What if I think it's immoral to kill someone by executing them, and you think it's immoral to have the state pay to house them for life instead? What if I think it's immoral to force a 9-year old to carry a child resulting from a rape by her father, and you think it's immoral to abort it? Who gets to decide? By what right? Who says?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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