Obtaining Security Clearance

Handling Protected Information and Social Media Hazards for Cleared Professionals

When discussing security clearances and one’s responsibilities, most associate it with handling and protecting classified national security information. However, often overlooked is the fact that handling and preventing unauthorized disclosure of other types of protected information is just as important.  These may include: For Official Use Only; Sensitive But Unclassified; proprietary, export-controlled; or Privacy Act information. Adjudicators view an individual’s deliberate or negligent failure to comply with rules and regulations for protecting classified information, or for protecting controlled but unclassified information as a serious security concern that raises doubt about an individual’s trustworthiness, judgment, reliability, or willingness and ability to safeguard such information.

With the increased reliance on using the internet as means of communication, there exists the additional danger in inadvertently or intentionally providing information to others that may be protected.  Some examples of sites that are frequently used are:

  • Social Media sites like Facebook, Google +, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, chat rooms, multi-player games, discussion boards, and blogs.

Two-fold Dangers of Social Networking Sites

The dangers inherent with these sites are two-fold: the lack of identity verification and the false sense of privacy controls. Individuals can create and post false identities online, and even multiple identities that are used to target and solicit information for various purposes, many of which are illegal. The privacy statements or controls offered on these types of sites offer a false sense of security. Most sites can be hacked, information sold by insiders, or individuals with whom you share information now have control of that information.

For those who may be applying for a security clearance or those that are current clearance holders, be aware of the fact that you have a responsibility to protect more than just classified information, and that the deliberate or negligent disclosure of protected information is a serious security concern and may affect your ability to retain or be granted a security clearance.