"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," city manager Chris A. Kukulski said in what's probably the understatement of the week.
Kukulski also said the city would "suspend" the practice of reviewing information already disclosed pending further review.
The turnaround came approximately 24 hours after news surfaced that the city was asking prospective employees for their user names and passwords to Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and other Web sites. It's not yet clear how many people had already provided such information or how the city used it.
Meanwhile, the debacle raises significant questions about how far employers -- public or private -- can and should go to investigate people's online activity.
While Bozeman appears to have been unique in asking prospective employees to supply names and passwords, some employers appear equally disrespectful of the privacy of people already on the payroll. Consider this: A branch of Houston's restaurant recently fired a waitress and bartender for complaining about management in a post to a MySpace group they created. The group was password-protected, but Houston's management allegedly persuaded another employee to disclose her password.
Consider also, The Associated Press recently reprimanded an employee based on a Facebook post criticizing McClatchy's management, according to Wired. (McClatchy is an AP member.)
In that case, the employee had apparently friended others at the AP and presumably knew that management might be monitoring his posts. Still, there's something distasteful -- not to mention repressive -- about monitoring people's every online statement.
At least the city of Bozeman seems to have realized that, even if other employers have not.