Can Social Media Posts Impact Security Clearance?

Social media has taken our world by storm. In many ways, it’s had a positive impact, but it’s also had a negative impact on several aspects of people’s lives. Social media has led to extramarital affairs, it’s negatively impacted divorce proceedings and now, it’s hurting some people’s ability to get a security clearance.

If you’re like most Americans, you have a Facebook and Instagram account. You may even have a Snapchat and a Twitter account, although Twitter is dying in popularity. And if you’re like millions of Americans, you check your social media feeds daily, if not several times a day.

For the average person, social media doesn’t pose much of a risk, but if you’re getting a divorce or applying for security clearance, it’s important to think twice about what you post. Why? Because if you’re applying for security clearance, your online social media behavior can be used against you to deny security clearance.

What Behavior to Avoid

Since 2016 when James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence signed the Security Executive Agent Directive 5, investigators have had the green light to look at applicants’ social media behavior. What this means is, your social media posts and behavior can be used to deny or revoke your security clearance.

“But isn’t that an invasion of privacy?” Not by today’s standards. Anything that’s posted on the internet or social media is fair game. After all, whatever you publicly share on the internet is public domain and therefore can be consumed by investigators and used to deny your security clearance application. In light of that, these are the social media (and internet) behaviors to avoid when you’re applying for or maintaining security clearance:

  1. Do not post nude pictures of yourself
  2. Do not post nude pictures of someone else
  3. Do not take and send nude pictures of yourself that can be used against you as blackmail by another person
  4. Do not take pictures while at work, especially if you work for the government
  5. Do not take pictures of you at classified facilities
  6. Do not take any pictures of you at a government facility, period
  7. Never post classified data on social media or the internet
  8. Never share classified data with the press

Being Smart on Social Media

We understand social media can be a lot of fun. You can share your “experiences” on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with friends and family, even if they live in another state or country. But if you’re applying for clearance or want to keep the clearance you have, you have to pause before you post anything.

Before posting, ask yourself, “Can this post impact my security clearance now or in the future?” If there is any possibility, hesitation, or question that a post can paint you in a negative light, don’t post it. It’s just not worth the risk. Believe us, it’s better to be safe than sorry when your security clearance is denied or revoked!

Next: Security Clearance: The ‘Whole Person’ Concept