The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Department of Defense, and a few other agencies such as the FBI share the responsibility of conducting all Federal background investigations in the U.S. OPM moves quickly towards integrating the tracking of social media and public records, as well as combing the Deep Web into the security clearance investigative process.
The appointment of all civilians privileged to be employed in any government agency or department is subject to investigation.
This works to the best interest of national security of a person’s reliability and trustworthiness, and that he or she is of good conduct and character with complete and unswerving loyalty to the U.S.
The scope of the investigation varies, which primarily depends on the nature of the position along with the degree of harm an employee in such position could possibly cause.
Some positions require a security clearance in order to be given access to classified national security information.
Many are aware that a credit report is an essential part of almost all background investigations.
Interviewing individuals, both whom an applicant has identified and other people not cited in the questionnaire, for an unbiased and balanced investigation.
Now, a pilot program is being prepared wherein social media posts and the Deep Web will become part of federal employee background searches.
Deep into the World Wide Web
President Obama instructed the OPM to conduct social media post and site tracking together with Deep Web crawling, and the government office has begun finding companies that possess automated capabilities to perform this aspect of background checks without needing human intervention.
OPM’s Federal Investigative Services has asked the private sector for tools that can cover all publicly available electronic information, including unprotected social media posts and those records can only be acquired via purchase or subscription.
Automatic functions will include browsing public posts from Facebook and Twitter, and is not limited to these social media sites.
It likewise involves e-commerce sites such as eBay and Amazon, photo and video sharing sites, blog postings, and court records that are available online.
Another critical task it will perform is to search into the Deep Web.
The RFI or return for information posted last April 8 specifically asks for tools that are capable of combing through the Deep Web.
This pertains to certain types of online documents and databases that held contents that are not typically indexed by search engines.
It means going beyond what standard search engines can yield and merely googling an applicant’s name, thus a thorough identity matching algorithm that digs further into the Deep Web and effectively distinguish between similar names.
The project will have the OPM paired with the Office of the DNI with tests on 400 investigations.
OPM also seeks tools which can handle 20-50 subjects in a week with a 3-5 day turnaround time.
Security Clearance More Secure
After the event of OPM’s massive data breach that impacted at least 22 million background investigation American records and the failure to identify and determine issues with the background check of NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the President’s administration then turned the responsibility of storing sensitive files and securing them to the Defense Department.
The push for social media and Deep Web scanning then comes as OPM’s FIS will be eventually replaced by the National Background Investigations Bureau.
It is currently being designed by the Defense Department, and expected to be operational by the year 2017.
To date, this OPM project serves the latest in the effort to monitor federal employees and contractors’ social media posts and thorough Deep Web searches for online presence.
These would be the same personnel who hold clearance utilizing technology to execute data checks continuously, rather than depending on the long-established period reviews conducted just once every 5-10 years.
This new capability and going down into the Deep Web may just be what would placate security clearance congressional critics, such as Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of Utah’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He points out and questions how one could not look at Facebook pages, Twitter posts, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sites while doing a background investigation.
He further states that if a bunch of teenagers would be hired to do the investigation, they’d probably do an even better job.