PasswordsIf you want a job with the city of Bozeman, MT it’s only going to cost you all of your privacy.

We’ve written before about how employers are checking out social networking profiles of potential employees, and how even college admissions offices are even doing it, but the city of Bozeman, MT has taken it even further, and it is quite frankly pretty scary.  Earlier this week, Steven Hodson at The Inquisitr brought this startling story to my attention that the City of Bozeman is requiring all job applicants to not only list what social networks they belong to, but they also must turn over their usernames and passwords.

The job application states:

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,, MySpace, etc.

In theory this is mainly done due to Facebook not allowing you to see the profile of anyone you have not friended, but that feature is optional on all other social networks.

As Mr. Hodson points out, this is tantamount to handing over the keys of your house to your employer, and telling them to have a look around.  Not only would you be giving them access to your profile, but also to your private messages, the ability to see your friends profiles that are otherwise private and other potentially sensitive information in your account.  Never mind the fact that one of the first rules of passwords is to never give them out to any one.

City attorney Greg Sullivan explained the reasoning of this request to this way:

So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City.

While it is understandable that a city would want to hire only upstanding people, demanding access to their private information is a whole different matter.  Mr. Sullivan also continued:

You know, I can understand that concern. 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. We’re not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we’re not able to use or shouldn’t use in the hiring process.

The problem I have with this is what if someone entrusted with the checking of your profiles is unethical?  What if they are a gossip?  You are giving some faceless person all of the information they need to find out pretty much anything they want to know about you, and that is worrisome.  And what happens to those pieces of paper you write down your information on?  Can the city guarantee that those documents will be under lock and key at all times with records kept at all times of whom accessed them?

It is easy to understand that in these difficult economic times that people will do whatever they can for a job, but for the city to even suggest that you should hand over this type of sensitive information is insanity.  And, lets be honest here, do they really suspect that if someone is doing something illegal that this will give them the magic solution to finding out?  Do they really think that if someone is a child molester it is going to be spelled out for them on their social networking profiles?

No matter how you slice it this is a bad idea, and something that the City of Bozeman has no right asking for.  What is private is private, and you sure would never catch me giving them access.

UPDATE: Shortly after we published this story it was announced that the City of Bozeman has stopped the practice as of midday on Friday.

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.

Thanks to heatherkoyuk on Twitter for bringing this to our attention.


fighting couple

Could the ever increasing popularity of social media lead to strife in your relationship?

If the rumor mill is to be believed, Jennifer Anniston, the actress that played “Rachel” on the hit TV series Friends, broke up with her singer boyfriend John C. Mayer over his addiction to the micro blogging site Twitter.  According to the Telegraph, Ms. Anniston was fed up with Mr. Mayer not returning her calls or emails, but yet he kept finding time to update his Twitter account. Jennifer Van Grove of Mashable did a break down of his Tweeting habits, and while it does show a sharp increase in frequency since February, it still works out to only 7.4 Tweets (the nickname for a message on Twitter) per day. Not that high of a number really, but if the story is to be believed, enough to make a couple split up.

Whatever the case between these two love birds is, that really isn’t the point.  The point is that this brings up an intriguing question of the amount of social media hopping people do these days could lead to strife in relationships.  With more and more services popping up on top of the old ones we already have, what are we cutting out of our time each day to check and reply messages, change our status, update our profiles and so on?  Video game sales are on the rise, sales of movie tickets are at an all time high, Americans are watching more TV than ever before, and the list goes on and on of how we are spending more and more tiem detached from the people immediately around us.  You add in social networking, and you can easily see people are running out of free time.

This may sound funny coming from a blog about technology, but maybe it is time we all start backing away from the computer some what.  Do you really need to update your status on Facebook?  Demi Moore, the actress, recently posted a video on Qik of how her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, was making them late for a plane flight due to his checking his Facebook.  True, he says he is checking for messages from his mom, but he couldn’t have picked up the phone to call and talk to her from the car?  Being on the computer may, at times, feel like something is taking less time, but going to the computer – logging in – clicking on your inbox – reading – replying – sending, that takes less time than picking up a phone to call someone and say, “I love you”?  No, it doesn’t, and you don’t get the pleasure of hearing the other person’s voice.

Just take a deep breath, think before you log in to yet another social network, or send another Tweet, and ask yourself, “Is there someone I should call or spend a moment with in person?”  People are mistaking the connectiveness of social networking with the connectiveness of real-time relationships, and that is just sad.  And certainly don’t get me wrong, I am just as guilty as the next person.  As soon as I hit publish on this article, I’m going for a walk… outside… and I’m not checking my Facebook before I do it, either.

Categories: Facebook, Opinion, Social Networking   

facebook logoHave you given any thought to how to protect your child as they navigate the wilds of social networking?

This is something I have talked about numerous times on my personal blog,, and something I can’t help but wonder how many peopel actually think about it.  It came to my attention again today when Linda Furrier wrote an article on about how she had recently attended a panel at her child’s school about safety on Facebook that was even attended by an employee of that popular social network.  I will quote the most imporant section:

The event l was billed as an event to increase your knowledge of your kids’ cyber culture on Facebook. The Facebook employee panelist was informative enough, but I couldn’t help feel that he really didn’t “get it”. His youth was indicative of the Facebook employee culture, but I am guessing he has never worried about a child getting home safely or being stalked on the Internet.

Questions were answered relating to privacy settings & Facebook procedures for blocking inappropriate posts and or members. The slide show was informative, but didn’t really reach the heart of the matter. The high school principal spoke with us about how the administration disciplines kids who post inappropriately in the high school network. The two high school age panelists spoke to their methods of protecting and sharing their information on Facebook. Yes, interesting, but I still left the event feeling hungry for more parenting tools.

I was left wondering, who is monitoring cyberspace outside of school hours? Whose responsibility is it? Should Facebook default to the most restrictive privacy settings for minors? Wouldn’t restrictions to spreading networks be highly counter to their business goals. Is Facebook’s sharing and connecting utility and business growth plan in conflict with the best interest of the kids?

This is a common issue that I hear time and time again about parents wondering why more wasn’t done to protect their children while they are online.  I always pose the exact same reply, “Why didn’t YOU do more to protect your children?

I applaud this school for trying to educate parents, and I also applaud Mrs. Furrier for trying to get more educated on the subject, but I always wonder why people bring up the idea it is the social network’s responsibility to protect their children.  Why should the school even be involved in anything a child does off of school grounds?  The whole point is that you are ultimately responsible for what happens inside of your own home, and this includes how your children interact with the Internet.

There are some very simple steps you can follow to watch over your child is they wander through cyberspace:

  • The cheapest, and easiest, solution is no computer in their room.  If they have a computer in their room, simply don’t allow it to connect to the Internet.  Computers should be kept in a common room until you feel that your child has proven to be responsible enough to surf the Internet on their own.
  • Install parental control software that limits when they may access the computer, the Internet or even just specific sites.
  • Most routers have the ability to block access to certain sites based on address.

Essentially it all comes down to educating yourself and setting rules for Internet usage just like you do anything else in your house.  Your child’s safety is ultimately your responsibility, and not that of schools, the social networks or anyone else.  Always make sure that you are fully aware of what your child is doing online, no matter how much they may complain about it.

Categories: Facebook, Opinion, Social Networking   

Popular social network Facebook is saying they have passed 120 million users, but one has to wonder how many of those people are real.

According to CNet, Facebook added 30 million users between the end of July 2008 and the beginning of November 2008.  In addition to their existing 90 million users, this brings their total to 120 million, or approximately 2% of the Earth’s population.  This means that in the past three months, they added more users than they did in the entire first three months of the social network’s existence.

While this is all fascinating, I wonder how many of these users are either a) real people or b) users ever did more than sign up for an account.  I personally know of one person who has two accounts because she forgot her log in information, and after getting into her new account, she decided it wasn’t for her and never logged back in.  I know other people who have created multiple accounts just so they can do better on some of the 280,000 applications on the network, whether those be games, trivia ones or other things

In short, a lot of Facebook’s supposed $15 billion dollar market valuation is based on their number of users, so it is certainly in their interest to show high numbers of members, but people need to think about how many of those numbers are false.  This isn’t to say that Facebook is necessairly intentionally giving out numbers that are partially false, but it is something for investors and advertisers to consider before throwing any money Facebook’s way.  If even half of those users are real, though I imagine it is higher, 60 million active users would still not be anything to sneeze at.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   

It seems that is not just employers that are checking out social profiles when they are judging you.

We mentioned in Future Employers May Be Checking Your Facebook Account that some employers are now checking out social profiles when they consider whom to hire.  According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, college admissions officers are starting to do the same.

In a recent survey of admissions offices of prestigious schools, 10% of respondents said they have peeked at the profiles of incoming students on MySpace and Facebook.  Of those 10%, 38% said what they saw had a negative impact on respondents. While not a majority yet, it is still an important look into the future and how your online reputation can be as important as how you conduct yourself in person, if not more so. What you put online is available at all times for anyone in the world to see, and they should properly reflect who you are.

Will this become the trend for all schools? Doubtful. Christopher Watson, the dean of undergraduate admissions Northwestern University told the Chicago Tribune, “We consider Facebook and MySpace their personal space. It would feel somewhat like an invasion of privacy.”

It is just another lesson to consider more and more what you do put out there for public consumption about yourself.  Just as I do with my personal blog, i think about how it might be viewed by people down the line in my life.  I am making a public document about myself, and I think you do have to think about what you are putting out there.  If you don’t want to play it safe with your personal profile, always do consider making it private so that only the people you personally choose can see it.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   

Many people ask what all this social networking is good for.  Is it just about sending around silly videos?  Messaging friends?  How about it being used to build a well in Ethiopia that will supply 200 people with clean water for 20 years? is a charity set up by a user on Twitter by the name of Scott Harrison that its sole purpose is to collect donations to build wells of clean drinking water in the African country of Ethiopia.  Seeing as Mr. Harrison’s birthday is in September, he suggested all Twitter users with a September birthday suggest people donate to the charity instead of having their friends buy them gifts.  Pete Cashmore, my boss at Mashable, turned 23 on September 18th, and so he did this project, suggesting that people give $23 in honor of his 23rd birthday.  By the end of the day, Pete had raised $3536.  Along with two people he knows that share the same birthday, they raised over $4500, and seeing as each well is targeted at costing $4000, they have nicknamed it “The Well Twitter Built“.

While this may not be a normal example of a social networking activity, it is certainly an example of what crowd sourcing via a social media network can certainly create some interesting results.  With the likes of sites like MySpace being what people usually think of when they hear “social networking”, they think of silly glittery graphics, and teenagers, but this whole event certainlyd emonstrates that the whole concept can be so much more.

Categories: Social Networking   

A while back we ran an article entitled Is It Safe To Put Pictures On The Internet, well, it seems we were right, and this is something you need to consider.

In the original article we discussed how safe it was to post questionable pictures of yourself on your social networking profiles, and we gave some real world examples of how not showing caution had backfired on some people.  According to Computerworld, recently conducted a survey of 31,000 employers and found that 22% of managers peruse social networking profiles prior to hiring, and another 9% are planning to do so.  This is in contrast to only 11% doing the same back in 2006.

So what are the top things they are looking for that might get you in trouble?

  • Information about alcohol or drug use (41% of managers said this was a top concern)
  • Inappropriate photos or information posted on a candidate’s page (40%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)
  • Badmouthing of former employers or fellow employees (28%)
  • Inaccurate qualifications (27%)
  • Unprofessional screen names (22%)
  • Notes showing links to criminal behavior (21%)
  • Confidential information about past employers (19%)

Not all of the news was bad as some managers said strong social networking profiles had convinced them to hire some candidates, but some had also been rejected based on the above criteria.

The moral of the story is simple in that if you insist on posting questionable content, make your profile private so only friends you approve can see it.  If y our profile is public, make sure to scrub it clean, and leave it that way.

Categories: Facebook, Social Networking   
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