How social media can affect your security clearance

Social media provides a window into the private lives of individuals. Sometimes, that window can reveal red flags that cast doubt on the character of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets.

A federal policy released last month allows agencies to consider social media when vetting employees or contractors for security clearances. The policy covers traditional social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – as well as other types of user-generated Internet content such as comments and discussion forums.

The move reflects a growing recognition of the insights social media can offer when it comes to evaluating risks. As part of a “whole person” approach to reviewing security clearance applications and renewals, social media profiles are difficult to ignore.

What this means for you

Security clearances are valuable credentials. Your clearance may be essential for your career. Fortunately, the new policy doesn’t mean you will have to steer clear of social media entirely.

Securing – and maintaining – these clearances has always required passing a rigorous background investigation. The new policy simply adds another dimension to that inquiry. Importantly, it is limited in scope to public postings only. Agencies won’t require applicants to divulge their login information, nor will they require disclosure of every social media handle.

The takeaway: Use common sense

It’s no secret that questionable behaviors can potentially jeopardize your clearance.

And, as most people are by now well aware, there is no such thing as true anonymity on the Internet. Taking a commonsense approach to your social media presence can go a long way toward safeguarding your security clearance.