How Much is Too Much?

How much information is a prospective employeer entitled to while doing a background check as part of the hiring process?

Let’s think about this, they have our name and our email address since you likely emailed them your resume. Who uses paper nowadays right? On top of that you have probably filled out an application which included your phone number, social security number, previous employers and address.

So that would allow them to find out some information through traditional channels as well as general Google searches, unless a Google search is now considered traditional? What about usernames or alternative email addresses? What about a list of all forums, chat rooms, groups or social sites that you use? What about the login and password to those sites?

Did that last line catch you off guard? Did it make you do an “OMG WTF LOL” at the very idea of giving someone your username and password to a website?

Many people have felt the same way about the City of Bozeman Montana who is requesting that very information as past of their standard “CONSENT AND RELEASE TO CONDUCT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND and REFERENCE CHECKS” for all prospective employees to the city.

Needless to say, I won’t be applying for a job with Bozeman anytime soon, but I wonder if this idea will start to spread out to other places as well. Is this really a set of information that an employer needs in order to do a background check into someone prior to hiring them? I don’t think so and I think it’s a huge violation of personal privacy.

Should an employer also be allowed full access to do a search of your home? Read all personal diaries? Get the full lowdown on why you left previous jobs?

No to all of these, public information is what should be relevant to employment. Private information should only be considered if it is relevant to something that would directly affect yoru ability to perform the duties of your job, these jobs are few and far between.

On top of the personal privacy issues, there is also another point which needs to be addressed, the Terms of Use/Service of the websites for which they are requesting username and passwords.


3.4 You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.
4.6 You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.


4.   Password. When you sign up to become a Member, you will also be asked to choose a password.  You are entirely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password.  You agree not to use the account, username, or password of another Member at any time or to disclose your password to any third party.  You agree to notify MySpace immediately if you suspect any unauthorized use of your account or access to your password.  You are solely responsible for any and all use of your account.

Now above and beyond the privacy issues, there are also personal security issues with giving this information to someone, especially on a sheet of paper that will be seen by who knows how many people and be stored in who knows what manner? This is a security nightmare of epic proportions for anyone in my opinion. Google and Yahoo are not just social clubs, chat rooms or forums, they are also email providers, so not only would someone have access to that, they could potentially have access to every website you belong to by simply going and having your password emailed to yourself, or scanning through old emails that are still stored within your account.

On top of all that, there is also the risk of whoever is doing the research getting caught up in unrelated social drama where another person could be posting things that aren’t true.

When do we say when? Where do the boundries of personal and professional stop? Who decides what is or is not relevant and do they really have that right?

I honestly question some of the legality of this request in the first place, and while I am sure the city had lawyers that have cleared it; I am sure there are lawyers out there who could find some references that could help clear up the murky waters of legality.

Just to be fair, there are plenty of other parts of this consent and release form that I have issues with, but they don’t really apply to IE, so I won’t go into them.

If the city of Bozeman is interested in hiring me, then they can go get their own Facebook account or Myspace account and become my friend if they want to know what is on my profile.

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