Online Behavior: Pitfalls for Clearance Holders
In today’s society it is virtually impossible to avoid contact with online communications or some form of social media. Many who keep opinions and thoughts about people, events, and work to themselves in person feel liberated when it comes to communicating electronically. The ability to electronically post information without the normal filters appeals to many, as they don’t have to face any immediate human reactions to the content, but at the same time they are seeking approval or have a need to be seen as a part of some organization, movement, or similar group of people.
Online behavior is garnering more and more attention for those that hold or want to apply for security clearances. The latest directives from the Office of the Director of National Security on implementing social media checks into background investigations and continuous evaluation monitoring are just the first step.
So what types of online behavior would get you in trouble? Here are a few examples:
- Unprofessional communications with anyone at work that might indicate a lack of respect, biases, racism, or general disdain towards individuals or organizations;
- Posting unprofessional or offensive content on social media or public content websites; this includes private sites where you may have given access to professional contacts;
- Engaging in cyber bullying, stalking, or other overly aggressive online behavior;
- Over-sharing sensitive or proprietary information through social media;
- Propagating rumors or distributing information of a personal nature that may be considered sensitive;
- Creating false identities or personas to conduct elicit behavior or to draw information from others.
Any of the above, when taken individually, may not be of concern or rise to the level of disqualifying, but when a pattern of questionable judgment or untrustworthiness is established flags are raised and it may result in a clearance denial. The reason this type of behavior is of concern is because it creates a vulnerability to coercion if the individual’s behavior is exposed to a spouse, family, friends or coworkers. It may also result in negative publicity for the employer causing repercussions financially or a hit to their community standing. Be smart about what you put out there for the world to see; know that there is no privacy – even when you think there is; and keep it clean and professional.
For security clearances, are the investigators able to check person emails? And if so, do they check people’s personal emails?
@Lindsey, checking an applicant’s emails is not authorized or a part of the investigation process. That being said, if you are using a government or company email address to conduct criminal or dishonest activities then that falls under rules violations or misuse. The only way it would come out is if you were disciplined for it.