Social Media’s Impact on Security Clearance Reviews


This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters. They write biweekly on RestonNow.

In this digital age, it seems that almost everyone uses social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram to communicate with the world whether it is through pictures or writing.

But to what extent, and how often, will security clearance authorities in the future review the social media accounts of security clearance applicants and holders as part of the government’s current upgrades to the security clearance review process?

Trials with Social Media in Clearance Reviews

The Office of the Director for National Intelligence (DNI) is evaluating the possibility of including social media account reviews as part of the security clearance process. According to a number of news sources, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX) has been tasked to review the feasibility of including social media evaluations as part of the security clearance process. One consideration by the NCIX is whether this type of review is realistic and would be useful.

Ongoing trials of social media review, using volunteers by the DNI, are looking into how such a system would function and whether it would work in the real world. The trial apparently includes a review of all public entries in social media by volunteer security clearance holders. For instance, the trial review includes an online search into publicly available information by a security clearance holder to see if the information gives rise to security concerns.

According to Mark Rockwell in FCW, The Business of Federal Technology, the social media trial led to a deeper investigation into percent of the volunteer security clearance holders.

How Social Media Might Have an Impact on Security Clearance

If social media reviews are ultimately incorporated into the security clearance process, a number of questions come to mind. Will individuals be checked for public social media entries? Will the government eventually attempt to ask clearance holders for their password and credentials? How often (e.g., continually, annually, every five years, etc.) will such checks be conducted?

The issues that could arise from social media reviews in the context of holding a security clearance could be significant. For instance, could having too many friends from foreign countries on Facebook cause a foreign influence concern? Could having a friend on Facebook who is engaged in or associated with criminal or improper activities reflect poorly on a clearance decision? Could a statement by a security clearance holder made on Twitter be taken out of context and form the basis for a general personal conduct issue? While the process is far off and may not come to fruition in the final government upgrade, these are legitimate questions of concern.

In the interim, we advise security clearance holders to be careful on their social media accounts. Although the DNI might decide not to move forward with such a system, it is important to keep abreast of such developments as the security clearance process changes.

When an individual is facing security clearance issues, it is important to obtain legal advice and potential representation. Our law firm advises individuals in the security clearance process. We can be contacted at or by telephone at (703) 668-0070. Our Facebook page is located at

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