Creative Commons License

City Government Commit ID Theft

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 10:41 AM EDT

From Ars Technica ("City to job applicants: Facebook, Myspace logins please" 2009-06-18) comes something deeply disturbing.

The city of Bozeman Montana, however, has decided that all of that is too much work—it’s now requesting that potential employees hand over the login credentials for any social networking sites they frequent.

It seems to me that this idea is just plain wrong on so many levels, not just an invasion of privacy of the individual with no equivalent disclosure by the city of Bozeman Montana (of all banking records, for example, or better still, give the applicant the city’s digital key to peruse and publish all contract details), but also an invasion of privacy of all third parties that have granted privileges to particular individuals.

It also opens up a huge opportunity for abuse by individuals, not limited merely to someone working for Bozeman given the credentials of their ex-spouse!  With the way government agencies squirrel away data, it would take about 10 seconds to blacklist someone forever with a simple status update on a social website ("Activities: burning cute kittens alive, eating babies, implementing my evil plan to destroy the world; Religious Views: Satanist; …. " – you get the idea).  From the details available to the "investigator", it would be trivial to answer questions over the phone from many utilities – and get power and/or phone disconnected.

Just imagine you had the social website login of someone you disliked (whether because you knew them, or just plain didn’t like an "ethnic" name) – how would you go about destroying the reputation of that person?  Yes, fun to contemplate, until you realize it can be done to you!

So, after reading this, who is thinking about creating a faux gmail and facebook/myspace account, with only "nice" friends, discussing only how wonderful potential employers are?

Meanwhile, I cannot wait for such abuse to be uncovered (it’s doubtless already happened), preferably with a very large damages bill.