Government 2.0 Club is an informal organization focused on convening the tribe of technologists and thinkers focused on applying social technologies to the governments worldwide.
Web 2.0 and government Employment
June 19, 2009 at 10:01 am #74098
Would guess that this MIGHT be pushing the limits as far privacy issues BUT at least another governmental organization (city of Bozeman, Montana) has realized the importance of Web 2.0
END OF COMMENTARY
Have Crossposted to Government Security Clearances group
From CBS News
Want A Job? Hand Over Your E-Mail Login
Bozeman, Montana Tells Applicants To Provide Facebook, Google “Usernames And Passwords,” Which Some Find A Bit Too Invasive
By Declan McCullagh
If you’re planning to apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, Montana, be prepared to hand over much more than your references and résumé.
The Rocky Mountain city instructs all job applicants to divulge their usernames and passwords for “any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.”
“Before we offer people employment in a public trust position we have a responsibility to do a thorough background check,” Chuck Winn, Bozeman’s assistant city manager, told CBSNews.com in an interview on Thursday. “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,” Winn said. “In many ways we would have let the public down.”
After CBS affiliate KBZK highlighted the requirement on Wednesday, a firestorm of sorts has erupted online: irate e-mail messages have jammed mailboxes in City Hall, snarky Twitter.com comments have poked fun at a place once awarded the sobriquet of “All-America City,” and a poll indicates 98 percent of respondents believe the city’s policy amounts to an “invasion of privacy.”
In addition to the usual requests for a home address and Social Security number, Bozeman’s one-page background check form asks for the account information for “current personal or business Web sites, Web pages or memberships.” It assures applicants that any information received “is confidential.”
Winn said applicants are not required to divulge their social networking log-ins, but warned that there could be repercussions if they lie. “If you say ‘I have no driving violation,’ and then we run your driving record and it turns out you do, and through further questioning we find out you’ve been deceitful about it, than that would be cause (for firing),” he said. “That tells us a lot about that particular person. They lied to us and were deceitful.”
Under the policy, which the city says has been in place for a few years, a police officer logs into and reviews the social networking sites of people applying for public safety (that is, police and fire) jobs. For other jobs, the city’s human resources department will perform the investigation.
An attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group based in San Francisco, questioned Bozeman’s choice to ask for usernames and passwords.
“I think its indefensibly invasive and likely illegal as a violation of
the First Amendment rights of job applicants,” said Kevin Bankston, an EFF attorney. “Essentially they’re conditioning your application for employment on your waiving your First Amendment rights … and risking the security of your information by requiring you to share your password with them… Where does it stop? How about a photocopy of your diary?”
One potential privacy concern is that accounts for Facebook and Google, among other sites, are used for more than just displaying photos, videos, and messages. They’re also used for e-mail, meaning that a Bozeman investigator could review years of personal messages.
“I don’t think the government can condition your application for employment on your giving up your First Amendment rights and your Fourth Amendment rights,” Bankston said.
Another possible hitch: Some social networking sites flatly prohibit disclosure of passwords, so a job seeker who complied with Bozeman’s request could lose his account. Facebook’s terms of service, for instance, say: “You will not share your password (or) let anyone else access your account.”
Bozeman’s Winn said the city does not want to be the “taste police” and is focused on looking for evidence of illegal activity. “They can log in themselves,” he said. “If not, they can show us what’s on their face page. ‘Yes, I have a face page but I don’t want to show it to you.’ That’s a fine answer. We’ll use other resources out there to do a through background check. We owe it to the public.”
Elinor Mills from CNET News, part of CBS Interactive, contributed to this report.
June 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm #74106
While I would have no problem releasing usernames, passwords are going a bit too far. We had an issue in the last city where I worked with an employee who went into old records and found an ex-employee’s social security number. He then used this to take out loans in this person’s name. Eventually he got caught after the ex-employee was contacted for repayment of the loan and filed a complaint with the police. If it happens with social security numbers it could happen with passwords. Can you imagine the damage that could also be done with someone stealing your passwords? Although I don’t do this, some people use the same passwords for all their online business – even to access their bank records.
June 19, 2009 at 2:14 pm #74104
I think this could be better solved with a solid google search rather then asking for all passwords, etc.
June 19, 2009 at 2:16 pm #74102
As in all things I think there is a balance that needs to be taken between privacy and what is required for a government or employer to check out who you are. Those that have security clearances go through an investigation to determine if they are trustworthy enough to be given critical government information. Depending on the level of information given they may have to go through a lie detector with some very pointed questions about life style, government allegiances, and if they have done acts against the Government. Even at this level someone is not asked for papers, book, articles written, or a search of ones house to see if there is anything that is of concern to the government. I see a few issues with this current policy. 1. If I am a bad guy I would have more then one account and there is no way they would know about the one that does the bad activity. Only the most stupid of bad guys would give up their user name and password for an account that they have been doing activity that is illegal. 2. Because a username and password is of a nature that someone can act within my account as me it seems that I would have to A. know that everyone that will have access to that information is very trust worthy, B. the system that hold that information is hack proof (haha), and C. that there would be a short window they able to be in the account and that I could and would reset all passwords after that period. and 3. Of course I see legal issues with asking for this type of information.
There is power in people once they join together. The best thing that could happen is that absolutely no one applies for a job there. The problem will be that some people will hand over that information without even thinking about what the ramifications of doing so could be. Often people are very trusting and do not think about why they should really give up freedoms. I see this most often when they think they are gaining security, safety, or financial gain. The “security” at the airports is one example of freedoms getting cut for “security”. I believe that most people who think about security would know that many people would easily be killed with a single bomber waiting to get in the middle of one of those long security lines during a holiday weekend and blowing up many people and shutting down the airport. There is no check for bombs before the security check in the airport. Do that at few different airports around the country at the same time and you will shut down air traffic in the US for some period of time. I could go on; however, that is not the point of this discussion. It would be great for someone to push this in a court and if needed take it all the way to the supreme court.
June 21, 2009 at 10:55 am #74100
Still a classic case of government 2.0, although the “story” has changed from the government using Web 2.0 tools to the effect of transparency has on the governing process which IMO is a very important part of government 2.0 …
June 19, 2009
The City of Bozeman has decided it will no longer ask job applicants for social networking user names and passwords following a worldwide outrage to the hiring policy.
“Effective at noon today, the City of Bozeman permanently ceased the practice of requesting that candidates selected for positions under a provisional job offer to provide their user names or passwords for candidates Internet sites,” Bozeman City Manager Chris Kukulski said Friday.
Following a 90-minute staff meeting held Friday morning, officials decided asking applicants to provide their passwords to sites such as Facebook or MySpace “exceeded that which is acceptable to our community,” according to Kukulski.
Kukulski also apologized for the negative impact the issue has generated from news organizations and blogs around the world. He added that the information was never required at the time of application.
“This was a question that was asked after you were conditionally offered the job.” He said the City also is suspending the practice of viewing any password protected information.
The City will continue using the Internet as part of background checks to judge the character of applicants. Although the City will stop asking for passwords, Kukulski said the passwords already given by previous applicants will remain the confidential property of the City.
City of Bozeman Press Release
For Immediate Release:
The City of Bozeman believes we have a responsibility to ensure candidates hired for positions of public trust are subject to a thorough background check. The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other Internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman.
Effective at 12:00 p.m. today, Friday June 19, 2009, the City of Bozeman permanently ceased the practice of requesting candidates selected for City positions under a provisional job offer to provide user names and passwords for the candidate’s Internet sites.
In addition, until further notice, the City will suspend its practice of reviewing candidate’s password protected Internet information until the City conducts a more comprehensive evaluation of the practice.
Since the initial media inquiries, the City of Bozeman has been reviewing the practice of requesting user names and passwords to access a candidate’s Internet sites. Today’s decision to terminate the use of passwords and usernames in this process reflects the City’s commitment to reconsider this practice. In addition, today’s decision to suspend the practice of inquiring into a candidate’s password protected Internet sites demonstrates a continued commitment to ensure the City’s hiring practices comply with state and federal law and protect the safety of Bozeman residents.
Chris A. Kukulski
Bozeman city officials held a 90 minute, closed door, meeting with city staff on Friday morning to discuss the controversy that’s erupted over a policy that asks city job applicants to supply user names and passwords for any social networking site to which they subscribe to, such as like MySpace or Facebook.
Information about what was talked about during the morning meeting was not released to the press, however the city has slated a 3:00 p.m. news conference, which will be held in the Bozeman City Commission Room.
We spoke with the Montana Attorney General’s Office on Friday morning to get their take on the issue and a spokesman told us that they can not offer information or statements on the issue unless they are contacted by Bozeman city officials. The spokesman added that so far that officials have not yet contacted their office.
(from June 18, 2009)
One a minute – that’s the rate at which emails are arriving in the email inbox belonging to the City of Bozeman’s attorney in response to a story about the City requiring that job applicants hand over login information and passwords for social network sites.
A story aired on KBZK Wednesday and by Thursday, city offices were being deluged by people outraged about the matter.
At the heart of the uproar is a requirement included on a waiver statement applicants must sign, giving the City permission to conduct an investigation into the person’s “background, references, character, past employment, education, credit history, criminal or police records.”
Montana’s News Station was alerted to the requirement by an anonymous viewer who emailed the station to express concern with part of the City’s background check policy for job applicants, which states that to be considered for a job, applicants must provide login information and passwords for social network sites in which they participate.
“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.,” the City form states. There are then three lines where applicants can list the Web sites, their user names and log-in information and their passwords.
City attorney Greg Sullivan who was interviewed in the first story said he met with the human resources department Thursday and the matter is being discussed.
Officials said they are looking into the legality of the requirement. They also said they are looking into Facebook’s policies.
The City heard from Fox News, NPR, CBS and ABC Thursday. It has also received a lot of negative reaction from the public.
City Manager Chris Kukulski says Bozeman stands by the policy of looking at social network pages of applicants. He said it’s important for judging the character of future police, fireman and other employees.
But Bozeman resident Michael Becker has problems with how the city views that information. He sent an email to Sullivan Thursday with 14 questions on the legality of the practice.
Asking for passwords is not just an invasion of privacy, Becker said.
“Well, first of all it is a violation of Facebook and MySpace’s terms of service. Both of them prohibit giving out your password to a third party, right in the terms of service, the one’s you agreed upon when you signed up for the site. So that’s not illegal, but it is a violation of their terms of service. So by giving your password to the City of Bozeman, you’re placing your account in Jeopardy,” he said.
Bozeman City Hall isn’t the only place where the requirement has become a hot topic. It has ignited a heated response on the social networking site Twitter where people are tweeting vigorously about the requirement.
Comments on Twitter range from the outraged to the snarky.
“Note to self, don’t apply in Bozeman for a city job,” one person wrote.
“It could be worse 🙂 City of Bozeman could partner with Dept. of corrections and issues ankle bracelets to all employees,” said another.
“Interview comment #817 ‘I’m sorry, according to the ‘Which Vegetable Are You’ quiz, you are a turnip. We can’t hire turnips,'” one person wrote, making reference to Facebook quizzes.
As of 10 a.m. 6,454 people had voted in a poll on http://www.kbzk.com asking “What do you think of the City of Bozeman requiring job applicants to provide social network site login and password information?” So 6,347 people have voted “I’m against it – It’s an invasion of privacy,” 62 people have voted “I’m for it – It’s important for the City to judge the applicant’s character,” and 45 people have said they don’t care either way.
News Web sites and bloggers from around the world are also picking up the story. Slashdot, The Guardian, Computer World and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton are just a few of the places where the requirement has gotten noticed.
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