Background InvestigationsCybersecurity

IACP/PERSEREC Cybervetting Report

On December 30, 2010 the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a report on their yearlong study of police cybervetting policy, “Developing a Cybervetting Strategy for Law Enforcement.” The report was a collaborative effort by the IACP and the Defense Personnel Security Research Center (PERSEREC). The report states that:


Using the Internet to gather information concerning job applicants and incumbents is an extension of existing background investigations conducted on persons applying for positions and promotions within law enforcement. The Internet is merely a new source to identify and collect information about people’s behavior.

The report doesn’t provide a “model” or “suggested” policy, but rather guidelines for agencies to develop their own policy based on the needs of their individual departments and the communities they serve. According to a September 2010 IACP survey, 31% of law enforcement agencies are already using cybervetting for law enforcement applicants.

Cybervetting Guidelines are presented at Appendix C of the report. In view of the “Bozeman Blunder” perhaps the most controversial aspect of the recommended guidelines is the provision that:

With the consent of applicants, candidates, and incumbents, law enforcement agencies may review online information about these individuals available on websites, where a subject’s password is required to view content. . . . Applicants, candidates, and incumbents may be asked to access password-protected websites so that the recruiter or background investigator can review their profiles, blogs, or other online forums for disqualifying content. . . . Law enforcement agencies should not ask for passwords.

Additionally a recommended supplemental questionnaire asks for information regarding an applicant’s past and present:

  • e-mail addresses
  • online screen names, handles, or nicknames (except those used for banking or healthcare).
  • websites or blogs where they are members, frequent, or contribute

PERSEREC produced a separate report, “Developing a Cybervetting Strategy for National Security Positions,” in part from the same study, but it will not be available to the public.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Here we go,

    When this starts, it is gonna create s giant xxit storm. I would venture to say the lawsuits will begin to fly. I have a sneaky suspicion many people will not report what sites they sign-in to. Oh well Investigators, guess your anonymity on this site will soon be blown–guess you folks better be nicer 🙂


    What impact will this have on folks coming here confessing their sins–seeking advice and help?

  2. Avatar


    It’s safe to assume that at sometime in the future cybervetting will be incorporated into PSIs for federal clearances. But most people who reveal derog info about themselves in order to get advice here aren’t going to be at risk, even if they have to disclose their email addresses (which is already on the SF86), usernames, screennames, etc., because they are one-time users. I don’t think it will come to that for federal clearances.

    I strongly object to the report’s recommended policy of requiring the applicant to use their password to log on to a social media website, and then allow an investigator to peruse everything that’s post there. On the other hand I support the use of software that uses certain parameters to gather relevant data from the internet regarding the subject of an investigation without circumventing password protection or privacy settings the subject may have used. If they put it out on the web without restrictions, they have no expectation to privacy. If it’s relevant to one of the 13 adjudicative guidelines, it should be collected, validated, and reported.

    To me one big difference is accessing relevant info. You and I were trained not to ask a subject or reference about political party affiliation. Additionally Subjects and references filter information before giving it to an investigator. A computer software can be programmed in the same way. Does IACP expect investigators, gaining password access to an applicant’s social media account, to avert their eyes to non-relevant, prejudicial information. The same applies to everything a person posts anywhere on the internet, whether it’s under a pseudonym or behind some privacy setting. PSI investigators shouldn’t be looking at it. The info needs to be filter by a computer program first, and then reviewed, hand checked, and validated by an analyst, and then filtered some more as necessary before it goes into a report. The analyst who does this shouldn’t be involved in any other aspect of the case and shouldn’t be allowed to communicate directly with an investigator or an adjudicator.

    My second concern is the “chilling effect” any form of federal cybervetting will have on the free speech of people who plan a career in federal service or the defense industry in the future. If they know that someday their written or recorded words or even videos will be reviewed by the government as part of a vetting process, they may restrict their speech unnecessarily to conform to what they believe is required to obtain a clearance. I don’t know how to prevent this, except to educate people about what the actual disqualifying conditions are for a clearance.

    The Internet is much more than “merely a new source to identify and collect information about people’s behavior.” For PSIs it’s a vast unfiltered source of information. Some people live half their lives online. Some have professed to being closer to their online friends (who they have never met in person), than to those they know in the physical world. Young people are spending 8 hours or more everyday communicating or interacting with others through computers and portable devices. Cybervetting is inevitable. As of 2009, 45% of employers were using some form of cybervetting.

    Okay, I’m done for now. Someone else can use my soapbox.

    BTW: The Library of Congress is archiving all “tweets.”

  3. Avatar


    Agree with much you said. I do have a slight problem with folks giving password protected site info and it has something to do with a little thing called the 4th Amendment. I know, I hear it all the time that clearances are voluntary. Now voluntary is not a word I would use when either you give it up or you get fired!!! True we should all keep ourselves in check with respect to behavior when possessing clearance. I do agree that parameters could be used to look at matters of national security importance. I’m really curious as to who will be the moral authority when it comes to this.

  4. Avatar

    OPM will be the moral authority!!


  5. Avatar

    I mean, just kidding, I love you, OPM. You’re the bestest agency in all the world.

    Are they gone yet? Is it safe to come out?

  6. Avatar

    Fed Inv,

    Good one!!!! Now send me your log-in info and your pay-per-view info as well 🙂

  7. Avatar

    My pay-per-view info? Crap, now I’ll have to explain why I have a bunch of UFC and Girls Gone Wild on my DVR.

    Damn it.

  8. Avatar

    So one of my buddies just called me and told me that a crazy dude, Phillip, on ‘Survivor’ the other night stated he was a former ‘Special Agent.’ Apparently, dude was a Background Investigator.


  9. Avatar

    Watch the SOUP from this week–this guy gets hammered.

  10. Avatar

    Here’s the SOUP clip, hahaha.

  11. Avatar

    On an unrelated topic, I noticed that OPM has released the RFP for it’s background investigations for the next 5 years. The total value of the contract over the five years? Over 2.45 billion dollars. Man, oh man I wish I had nationwide capabilities…

  12. Avatar


    I sure hope this proposal includes cost adjustments for pay raises. Seems as if these companies keep adding new so-called big name members to their boards, which sucks the well dry for the real workers. Name one contract any of these board members have helped any one company land?

  13. Avatar

    I agree BW. Our company just started some Advisory Board with a bunch of big names on it and who knows how much our company is paying them. Yet our company has changed the rules again on performance metrics to make it harder for the background investigator to get a raise. We are suppose to be at 95% quality and 90% timeliness. The quality rank I agree with but for as for timeliness not one business unit for our company came close to 90%. I think the highest was 83% timeliness. Also I was in college when the last gov’t shutdown occurred. If it does happen how bad does it affect OPM and its contractors?

  14. Avatar


    Timeliness requirements for the investigators varies by company, too. One of my OPM contractors gives me three week ACD’s that are somewhat moveable if necessary. The other gives me very strict two week ACD’s (which really are only 13 days because they assign the work at 10pm on the first day). When the second company begs me to take more work, which they occassionally do, I tell them I can only accept the work if I know I can start it immediately, as the turnaround time is so short.

  15. Avatar


    I was in the military then, so not sure how this will be effected. My guess is, nothing will change as the process was already in motion. I think the shut-down will simply cost us taxpayers an extra $100 Million a day, so no big deal because the politicians are already driving us off a bridge, so what’s a few hundred million extra!!!!!!! As all politicians say “That’s a drop in the bucket.” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!

  16. Avatar

    Our company has an internal blog and there is a post today about OPM indicating they are going to have a higher expectation in quality starting in the near future. Soon our internal review is going to be contacting us for clarifications and corrections that were previously deemed sufficient before being sent to OPM. Yeah more change

  17. Avatar


    I’ve noticed the re-file rates have soared. I’m even getting them on things I have done for over 6 years, with no troubles and not a re-file. Funny how this thing works–we have come down to wordplay; “Either word it my way or re-file even when the reports say the same thing–just different words to describe.

    At this pace, this process will slowly become unrepairable.

  18. Avatar

    Fed Inv

    How do we know you aren’t Phil?

  19. Avatar


    I feel you… Same things going on over here. Also, I’ve being sent to do a lot of extra things that aren’t required for the handbook. Just took a stack of MBI’s and have to go over old paid collections with them… The pay hasn’t increased but what’s expected sure has.

  20. Avatar

    Today is 2/24/11. There are only two more business days in February and I have yet to see the New SF-86 or have any training on it.

  21. Avatar


    Hey you are one up on me–you heard it was coming.

  22. Avatar

    They’re going to roll it out on 2/28/11 and send an email at 5pm that evening advising everyone that the new form will be used from 3/1/11 on and training will follow. We’ll all get trained on the new form around May… In the meantime, the reopens will continue to multiply. Can’t wait!!!

  23. Avatar


    And when you say training, I’m guessing you mean a 2-hour slide show and test!!!!!

  24. Avatar

    Hahaha! Powerpoint and open book test on the computer. Followed by six months of reopens because OPM hasn’t quite decided how to handle the new form…

  25. Avatar

    On the top of my list for “most problematic questions” on the new SF86 is question #19. Because of internet social network sites, gaming, and blogs, there’s going to be mass confusion regarding foreign nationals with whom applicants have close or continuing contact and a bond of “common interest.” It was hard enough for people to decide who to list on the old form: How close is “close” if you don’t have continuing contact? If you had contact 2 years ago, but anticipate future contact is that “continuing?” How strongly do you have to feel about someone for a bond to exist? Then there’s the PRSI (oops, I mean ESI) where people tend to disclose more foreign contacts than they listed on the form. Now they have to contend with this new type of relationship that is even harder to define than the others. I curious to heard what the SF86 trainers will have to say about this.

  26. Avatar

    Sorry, my finger don’t glide over the keyboard as well as they once did. I meant to type, “I’m curious to hear what the SF86 trainers will have to say about this.

  27. Avatar

    They’ll say “cover everything”. Which means that maybe one ESI will be completed in a day, not including typing time. Welcome back, backlog…

  28. Avatar

    Good point–just did 2 cases you speak of and they ended-up taking hours. Contractor is right, they will say just cover it. Seems as if nobody wants to decide the amount of contact “Meaning Close.” OK–I’m wondering if someone sits around and says “Hey we are all caught-up, throw some ignorant process into the mix so we can back-log ourselves again.” We, when I say we, I mean them 🙂 I am quite surprised that alot of subs haven’t already walked away due to the recent overwork–no pay situation. They better hope the economy doesn’t get better, because you will see people walk-away in record numbers. Just my .02

  29. Avatar

    I’m using my OPM contracts as filler right now. The time it is taking to complete even simple OPM cases has quadrupled and the pay remains the same. There are new unreimbursed requirements being added as well. My other contracts are much easier to deal with (they still follow the OPM guidelines as required, their processes are just much more streamlined and they pay much better). Been contemplating getting out of the OPM game for awhile. There are only a select few items that are worthwhile financially for me.

  30. Avatar

    I am seeing more and more things OPM is requesting we discuss with SJs that the case papers say SJ’s don’t have to list. I have a NACLC ESI tomorrow with a bankruptcy outside the 7 year time frame they want me to discuss with the SJ. It happened 9 years ago.

    I estimate all ESIs take me at a minimum of two hours to complete and then two hours to type. The one I typed up today took me 3 hours. And the big wigs in our company wonder why not one business unit is hitting the 90% timeliness requirement. Same amount of case work, same amount of investigators working the cases but each case takes much longer. I don’t think they understand and need to come out into the field again for a month or two to see what it is really like out her.

  31. Avatar

    William and Investigator

    I have from time to time had to cover these same things if it is the SJ’s first clearance and it falls in the 10 year window. I know it doesn’t help, but it’s not that unusual. Good luck Inv and try to remember just how much fun you are having doing this job 🙂

  32. Avatar


    Just had an ESI that took me 6.5 hours to type–by far the longest I have ever had!!!!!! Please bring back the old SPINS.

  33. Avatar

    Is it OPM or is it the CAF that wants the Bk covered?

  34. Avatar

    I can only promise I’m not Phil. It would be awesome if I was though.

    All I can say is good luck all, the new ESI stuff is nothing compared to what is rolling out in the next few (unknown) months. Can you say, new Handbook chapters!!! Boo-yah.

  35. Avatar


    This is the reason that the OPM game is no longer making sense to the contractors. I’m not making enough money on the ESI’s to make them worthwhile.

  36. Avatar

    For all subs, Omni is back in the OPM game and looking for people.

  37. Avatar

    Just read an internal newsletter that mentioned our IT department has obtained a copy of the 2010 SF 86 and they are figuring out how to incorporate it into the numerous techincal services our company has to “help” the investigator. Yet we have heard no mention of if we as investigators are going to get any training on it.

  38. Avatar

    Good–who wants a Federal Agent that is dishonest.

  39. Avatar

    The article sort of started off like we should be feeling sorry for this person. Jeez. I always think that people try to interpret the questions on the form in a way that would make it so they don’t ever have to answer “yes”. Then they get all confused and upset when the truth comes out…