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FCW : August 15, 2016
Jeffrey Huth is vice president of product strategy for TransUnion’s government information solutions division. Commentary | JEFFREY HUTH In May, Director of National Intel- ligence James Clapper signed Secu- rity Executive Agent Directive 5 on the “Collection, Use and Retention of Publicly Available Social Media Information in Personnel Security Background Investigations and Adjudications.” The directive was released the night before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the same topic. It has been a long time coming and overall is a great step forward. However, it might not go far enough. Under Section E (Policy), the directive states that “agencies may choose to collect publicly available social media information in the per- sonnel security background inves- tigation process.” In my opinion, that could have been worded more strongly because the word “may” conveys something optional. I realize that making a stronger policy statement would lead to questions about funding and tactics. However, reviewing social media is one of the best ways to evaluate individuals against the adjudicative guidelines for determining wheth- er someone should have access to classified information. Those guidelines define what investigators should look for in a background investigation. The new directive also states, “Only publicly available social media information pertaining to the cov- ered individual under investigation shall be intentionally collected.” That statement leaves too many loopholes. Standard Form 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions, does not ask applicants to list the social media platforms they use and does not ask for their online identities. That makes it very difficult for investigators to ensure that they are looking at the cor- rect person’s online activity. Unless someone uses his or her name for a Twitter handle, public Instagram feed or YouTube channel, how can an investigator be sure? Chances are if people are applying for security clearances and posting anti-U.S. sentiments online in their spare time, they are probably not doing it in a way that can easily tie back to themselves. Therefore, tech- nology must improve so that inves- tigators can associate disparate user names across multiple social media platforms with a single individual. The security clearance direc- tive seems to recognize the identity resolution challenge, and in Section E, paragraph 7, it states: “Authorized investigative agencies shall make reasonably exhaustive efforts to verify that any information collected that is discrepant or potentially disqualifying pertains to the covered individual.” It also goes on to say any infor- mation that would disqualify an applicant must be investigated, and ultimately, the covered individual must be given a chance to review the proceedings. The latter part reminds me of the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s require- ments for issuing adverse-action notices and resolving consumer dis- putes. It would be difficult to bring social media disputes under similar reporting requirements, but the gov- ernment seems to be heading in that direction. However, FCRA’s accuracy requirements for identity resolu- tion would be hard to meet, and the consumer dispute process would become overwhelming if applied to social media activity and security clearances. Further, in the social media world, it is not clear to whom FCRA’s data- furnisher requirements would apply because in this context, the individu- al is furnishing his or her own data. Every initiative must start some- where, of course, and Security Executive Agent Directive 5 is a definite improvement over the previ- ous status quo. If the government is serious about strengthening the clearance process, however, more must be done. n How social media can help spot insider threats A new directive on using individuals’ social media activity in the security clearance process is a good first step, but it could go even further Technology must improve so that investigators can associate disparate user names across multiple social media platforms with a single individual. 10 August 15, 2016 FCW.COM 0815fcw_010.indd 10 7/22/16 9:16 AM
July 30, 2016
August 30, 2016