Security Clearance Process

What Will a Security Clearance Social Media Check Look Like?

A memo released by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper paves the way for social media checks to be used in the security clearance background investigation process.

Any information searched must be related to the 13 adjudicative criteria, and must be information that is publicly available. A background investigator will not be asking for your log-in credentials, but you should expect your name to be searched on popular search engines and social media sites once the policy is implemented.

“The intent of the policy was to give top cover to agencies who want to start using social media,” said Charles Sowell, Senior Vice President of National Security and Cyber Solutions (NSCS) with Salient CRGT, who emphasized the policy does not mean applicants should expect social media checks to become a universal part of the background investigation process. He also noted that use of social media would be implemented on an agency-by-agency basis.

Sowell highlighted that unlike other countries, and even some employers, the government was not going to be asking security clearance applicants for their user names and passwords – an important distinction for privacy advocates. “We’re not going to be trying to break into password protected social media settings, and we’re not going to try to circumvent privacy settings,” said Sowell.

The omnibus appropriations bill passed in December of 2015 prescribed new social media dictates for the background investigation process. Up until now, DNI has yet to provide implementation guidance. Congress has been highly critical of the government’s failure to allow background investigators to search publicly available information about candidates. The new directive changes that.

“Social media has become an integral—and very public—part of the fabric of most American’s 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.

The release noted background investigators will not be required to search social media sites as a part of the investigation process, but will be allowed to if their agency moves forward with implementation guidance. Social media checks may be used to validate concerns, or may also mitigate potential issues…Read more at