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June 19, 2009

From Low Privacy to No Privacy

In this post: Jaimy raises a few questions regarding the threshold of privacy online, in social networks …

Jaimy SyzmanskiIf you’re part of any online social network, you’re aware of the privacy issues that can come into play with your personal information. This concern doubles when you throw a professional career into the mix and triples when you’re applying for a job.

Because, the Internet is peppered with an array of interesting tidbits about you. That crazy weekend in Cabo from five years ago that your then-best-friend posted a public, 60-photo album on? No longer “just a memory.” That message or tweet you sent about your previous employer? Yeah, that’s easily searchable too. And, we won’t even start on all those messages you sent to your past significant other …

The expectation of privacy has been significantly lowered with the rising popularity of online social networks, but there’s always been a way to keep some information “private” (i.e. Personal messages, network grouping and security features) … Well, until this morning, that is.

News broke today that job applicants with the city of Bozeman, Mont. are being asked to forfeit their usernames and passwords to all social sites they are a member of, or other Web groups they belong to, for “application information verification.”

I think this is absurd. It’s one thing to do your diligence in background-checking job applicants online and within social networks, but quite another to request complete control over their accounts. I understand that some of the positions within the city’s government are highly respected and require a great amount of responsibility, but you have to draw a line somewhere.

What’s next, I wonder? Are they also asked to give up their Web e-mail passwords? Blogging ID/Password? Are they allowed to change their passwords once their information has been sufficiently scoured by their employer?

Or, for that matter, what happens if they don’t get the job? Their information was simply unveiled for nothing but to satifsy a few curiously insatiable employers?

I’ve grown up with little expectation of privacy online, as have many other Generation Y-ers and Millenials, but even I am taken aback by this expecation of job applicants. I’m not so sure any job is worth giving up the entirety of one’s personal information for employer review and fine-tooth scrutiny.