Do you make a habit of posting evidence of recreational drug use, hard partying or other questionable behavior on your social media sites?
It may be time to change your privacy settings or brush up on your content curating skills if you’re looking to land a government or contractor job that requires security clearance.
Investigators may soon begin combing through applicants’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts as part of the security clearance process, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed Security Executive Agent Directive 5 on May 12, which establishes “investigative authority to incorporate publicly-available social media information in the security clearance process,” according to an ODNI press release.
This policy doesn’t mean every security investigation will include a look into an applicant’s social media activity. Instead, it allows investigators to “collect, use and retain” publicly-available information if an agency head determines it is an appropriate investigative tool in determining a person’s initial or continued eligibility for access to classified information, or to hold a sensitive position, according to the policy.
“Social media has become an integral—and very public—part of the fabric of most Americans’ daily lives,” said Bill Evanina, Director of ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center. “We cannot afford to ignore this important open source in our effort to safeguard our secrets—and our nation’s security.”
Information from social media will be collected only after obtaining a signed Authorization for Release of Information form of the SF-86, the policy states. Applicants will not be asked to provide login information to their private accounts.
The policy also prohibits agencies from using existing or newly created social media accounts to bypass privacy controls or access information that isn’t publicly available.
“For the vast majority of security clearance applicants, this policy likely will make no difference to them,” security clearance attorney Catie Young says. “Just as potential employers may view your public social media posts when considering you for employment, this policy outlines the government’s position on doing the same.”
Young’s advice is to check privacy settings to ensure desired information is kept private, and that public information portrays the individual as they wish to be portrayed.
“Common sense dictates that you keep questionable content off your social media accounts,” Young says.
If you have applied for security clearance and are concerned about factors that might interfere with your ability to obtain clearance, consult an attorney who specializes in this legal area.