It isn’t often that we can report here in the Barr Code, or anywhere else for that matter, that citizens advocating for privacy rights have won a round against the government — any government. But, the citizens of Bozeman, Montana, in solidarity with people all across the country, have done just that. Based on public outcry against a Bozeman policy to demand job applicants surrender to the city all their passwords to Internet social networking organizations, the city has backed down and rescinded its ill-advised policy.
When the city of Bozeman implemented the privacy-invasive policy in mid-June, it defended it by claiming the detailed information giving its bureaucrats access to applicants’ personal Internet passwords would be used only “to verify application information,” and that refusal to supply the information would not be held against an applicant. Thankfully, such disengenuous explanations failed to stem the tidal wave of negative comment the city received; including from some of the state’s legislators.
Although the policy was ill-conceived and clearly crossed the line from reasonable, pre-employment information to private, personal information, the city of Bozeman ought to at least be congratulated for recognizing its mistake and rescinding the policy. Most other governments — including the feds — would have dug in their heels and continued to defend their turf. Ever heard of Uncle Sam admitting a mistake and then voluntarily repealing a bad policy? Neither have I.