On May 12, a policy surrounding the use of social media information as a form of federal background-checking went into effect. Approved by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, federal investigators now have permission to look into social media posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter to learn more about certain individuals.
It's worth noting that most of these measures are taken when an individual happens to be applying for a job with the government that requires security clearance. This is because they may handle sensitive information as a part of their position. Furthermore, there are limitations on the new policy. For instance, background-checking government employees will not be able to tap in to the passwords of potential hires. Applicants also won't be asked to reveal any of the pseudonyms they use on social networks.
A total of 22 federal agencies will use the background-screening process to learn more about candidates before hiring them. Posts about an individual's friends or acquaintances on websites like Facebook may come into question if they pose a national security threat.
The federal agency heads who check social media posts are expected to include "appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties."
However, this information may not quell the fear of Americans as a whole, who feel that their online activities are not as private as they would like. New data released by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on May 13 found that 26 percent of all online households avoid posting on social networks due to privacy concerns. About 35 percent of those who have experienced a security breach claim that they avoid writing on these platforms due to similar worries.
"NTIA's initial analysis only scratches the surface of this important area, but it is clear that policymakers need to develop a better understanding of mistrust in the privacy and security of the Internet and the resulting chilling effects," wrote Rafi Goldberg, policy analyst at the Office of Policy Analysis and Development, on the NTIA's blog. "In addition to being a problem of great concern to many Americans, privacy and security issues may reduce economic activity and hamper the free exchange of ideas online."