ODNI Issues Social Media Check Policy Guidance
Effective May 12, 2016 security clearance background investigations may include the collection and review of publicly available media information in determining eligibility for access to classified information. The long awaited policy release, Security Executive Agent Direction 5, gives the Federal government authority to implement these checks, however, it leaves it up to agency heads to determine whether or not they want to include social media checks in background investigations on their employees.
What will they be looking at? The policy defines publicly available social media information as “any electronic social media information that has been published or broadcast for public consumption, is available on request to the public, is accessible on-line to the public, is available to the public by subscription or purchase, or is otherwise lawfully accessible to the public.” Applicants are not required to provide passwords or account information to allow access not available to the public and agencies or investigators are not allowed to create profiles or try to bypass privacy controls through social engineering methods. The new policy also states that a clearance denial or revocation cannot be made solely on uncorroborated or unverified social media information.
It will be interesting to see how many agencies decide to mandate the use of social media checks in their background investigations, as well as how OPM, FBI, CIA, and State Department implement this into the investigations process. Will they have an IT savvy investigator conducting the checks or parcel it off to a computer specialist with specific instructions on what to look for? This will, I am sure, be a hot topic of discussion in the near term.
Please reply in the comments if your agency begins allowing social media checks as a part of the background investigation process, and if so, what kind of guidance you receive.