Social media has become an integral part in our daily lives; this connectivity, however, comes at the cost of privacy and can result in missed future opportunities if not properly managed. As this next class of college graduates head out seeking employment, one of the first things hiring managers in the private sector look over is a cursory search of one’s online public appearance. Embarrassing photos or unsavory posts can easily deny applicants job and internship options despite their academic and professional accomplishments. While this method of vetting has existed in the private sector for years, the United States Federal Government recently announced the opening of a new department, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB). This department is scheduled to open as early as 2018 and is tasked with searching government employee social media records when said employee is being considered for receiving security clearance. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and even GitHub are among some of the searchable social media networks on NBIB’s short list.
This development is unsettling to many, particularly when coupled with NSA surveillance and record documenting. While social networking companies have worked tirelessly to provide end to end encryption to secure their networks, small exploits can result in whole network compromises. Entities known as “Honeypot” accounts request to be added as friends or associates in the interest of gaining access to your profile and your network on social media. While this type of activity is strictly prohibited in NBIB’s policy, the organization can easily look up your network of friends and their connectivities to assess your risk level relative to whatever security clearance in consideration. The question remains of how much information can one draw from analyzing simple connections in a person’s social network and how justified are these conclusions in assessing risk.