U.S. city asks applicants for all net passwords

The list of Internet-ignorant government actions grew by one, although that list was already quite long.

A CBS affiliate reported that the city of Bozeman, Mont. is demanding not just account names but also passwords for applicants’ “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.”

Greg Sullivan, the city’s attorney, claimed that the city government needs to do investigations for positions of integrity but that the city also respects privacy rights.

The journalist covering the story, Dan Boyce, pointed out that in the case of Facebook, the city need only create its own Facebook account and ask applicants to “friend” it online.

On the Web, observers were suspicious of Sullivan’s claims. One BoingBoing commenter asked for a legal opinion. “In an interview, they couldn’t ask me about my religion, my marital status, my politics, and various other prohibited categories. That’s black-letter federal law that every employer knows, especially employers with in-house government-paid lawyers,” the commenter noted

“My Facebook page alone has all that information and more, most of it conveniently gathered together in a little box,” the commenter added. “I know the bar for discrimination lawsuits is pretty high, but wouldn’t any rejected applicant have a real leg up given that there’s no way the city could claim it didn’t know it was demanding information it wasn’t entitled to know?”

Another href=”http://www.boingboing.net/2009/06/17/city-in-montana-requ.html#comment
-521074″>said that the erosion of online rights can be blamed on universal apathy, writing a long rant that said in part, “we let them monitor our internet and phone communications. We watched as they required GPS trackers in our cellphones by law. We let them require us to use identification to get iPass cards to use tollways and highways. We didn’t care when they required us to use RFID tags on our ID cards. We won’t care when GPS quietly become required on all vehicles, along with black boxes and radio linkages. And you wonder why they want our passwords? There wasn’t anything left to ask for.”

Big governments can be dumb too

But Internet ignorance isn’t restricted to the government of the small township of Bozeman, Montana (population 35,782).

The law governing how the U.S. government handles personal data has not been updated since 1974, advocates recently pointed out.

Software industry groups are also up in arms about the government of China’s proposal to install filtering software on all PCs.

In Berlin, protesters picketed the Brandenberg Gate as Germany’s government debated the so-called “Zensursula” legislation that would establish a DNS block list purportedly aimed at cracking down on child porn.

Protesters carried signs saying, “Facebook is no terrorcamp,” “New Berlin Wall,” and “Don’t Worry, We’re from the Internet.”

Of course, governments are not the only organizations making mistakes on the Internet. There are plenty of examples of businesses making ignorant errors too, some with serious consequences.

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