Friday, June 19, 2009

That Big Sky resides between the ears

This is what happens when:
A) wicked people get put in a position of power; or
B) stupid people are too stupid to understand how anyone could doubt their innocent intentions.

Personally, I'm leaning toward (B).

The city of Bozeman is asking all job applicants to hand over the usernames and passwords to all internet sites to which they belong. You read that right - they even want your passwords!

Because maybe, just maybe, that guy who wants to be a policeman has been posting child porn somewhere and will be stupid enough to lead you to it. "This is just a component of a thorough background check," says Chuck Winn, Bozeman's assistant city manager.

No, no it isn't. On all my social site accounts, I've signed an agreement that I won't be turning my passwords over to another person and I wouldn't do it even I didn't care about violating terms and agreements. For starters, there are things about me that an employer has no right to ask - for example, my religious beliefs. Job application forms do not ask you list all of your club memberships because the employer has no right to ask it.

Yet these clowns not only want you to disclose all your internet memberships - "any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc." - but demand to be able to peruse all your activities there.

And that Google password? That's my email! They're asking people to give them unrestricted access to their email account!

Now, what kind of asshole would I be if, without asking your permission, I allowed some nimwit of a city official to go poking through everything I've written to you and everything you've written to me? Grade A, that's what kind. And that's before I even start worrying about what would happen if some jerk decided to start writing messages under my name.

The city attorney hopes this will be reassuring: "One thing that's important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don't use those." Need we even reply?

I chose (B) because I really think these folks are just too ignorant to comprehend why this is a big deal. When I see comments like, "They can show us what's on their face page," I'm pretty sure I'm listening to someone who's vaguely heard of Facebook, but has no idea what it's about. Heck, I probably don't even have to worry about him finding this blog that I publish under my real name.

That's doubly embarrassing when Bozeman is a nice college town that no doubt holds plenty of tech-savvy people; apparently, none of them are running the city.


PS. The Facebook entry that tipped me off to the story also mentions the Montana Constitution, Article II, Section 10:
"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."


Cranberry Necklace said...

Yup, my husband knew the password to my e-mail account. When he was trying to hurt me in every possible way, he sent his suicide note (with links to a robust 100-page-document web-page hosted on 2 different servers in which he maligned me) to every one of my contacts. Though it made my getting a protection order simple - he had documented his threats - it helped to cause me grief for months and years as I tried to combat the image he had portrayed of me to my friends and relatives.
Yes, he was psycho at the time. But would I ever give a public official the power to do such a thing to me, now that I have been burned once? No way. I don't have that much trust left in me.

Scott Hanley said...

You ought not to have that much trust in you in the first place. It should be earned on a case-by-case basis and there would rarely be a reason why a trustworthy person would need one of your passwords. Just don't do it.

James Hanley said...

"We wants it" isn't a compelling government interest?

Scott Hanley said...

I think courts have usually set the bar a little higher than that. Really, though, this is less about government and more about bureaucrats whose only compelling interest is to CYA in every way they can think up.

James Hanley said...

CYA isn't a compelling government interest?