Social media is everywhere. From the traditional media asking you to “send in your thoughts via Twitter” to the fact that the main way many parents connect with their college-aged kids is via Facebook, it would seem everyone is on social sites. But as a security cleared professional should you be? Perhaps the one community where social media isn’t fully embraced is intelligence. I mean, the FBI is tweeting but are most agents boasting their exploits via social sites?
The answer to using social media as a security cleared worker is simple – set limits, know the rules, and you too can mix and mingle online. But keep a few things in mind.
- Google yourself. This is generally always the first recommendation I give when it comes to being aware online. No longer a sign of vanity, searching your name on search engines clues you in to what others (with intentions good or bad) might find out about you online. Easier said when you’re a Lindy Kyzer than when you’re a John Smith, so try searching with your name and employer, organization, or relevant interests.
- You don’t have to be on Facebook. I know, I know – your Grandma is there, shouldn’t you be? Not necessarily. Being a cleared worker doesn’t mean you can’t use social sites, but if you’re weary, it’s okay. There was a world before Facebook, and there will be a world after. Now, understand that I’m a self-professed social media evangelist – I think there is a lot of good to being online. But don’t feel pressured. If you’re not excited about being online, what’s the point?
- Know your settings. Did you know you can block your tweets so only individuals you approve can see them? Did you know that you can choose how you share every album of photos you post to Facebook? Now, whenever you post information online you should consider it a public release of information, even if your settings say otherwise. It’s like the good advice to never send an e-mail you wouldn’t want published on the front page of your favorite newspaper. But taking just a few minutes to establish strict online settings will go a long way to keeping what you post restricted.
- Don’t post your personal information. “Duh, I’m a security cleared professional, of course I’m not going to do that!” You say. But, you’d be surprised. Don’t include your address, your birth year, and consider using fake information, even.
- Don’t overshare. We all have “that friend.” The one who narrates their entire life on social networking sites. “You would not believe the omelet I had for breakfast at Denny’s this morning…” Even worse – the public spats between couples splattered on one another’s Facebook walls. Such oversharing isn’t just a good way to find yourself the scourge of your friends, it’s also a great way for individuals to data-mine or target you for spear phishing campaigns. It’s fine to use social media to keep your friends informed (that’s what they’re for), but be smart, and think before you post.
- Make sure your online friends are real friends. I realize this is a revolutionary idea – you mean I can’t connect with the clerk at my favorite grocery store? This has been a serious issue, especially for young people. If you’re just now filling out your SF-86 it’s a great time to review your online connections, and make sure you actually know them and would want to be associated with them.
- Don’t talk about work. The best way for anyone in the intelligence community to use social media sites is to keep a clear distinction between the personal and professional. Use social media to connect with friends, not talk about your job.
- Use a dedicated, secure network to connect professionally. Networking online (and offline) are incredibly important. That’s why the Cleared Network was created – to provide a solution for the need to connect with companies and recruiters online without sharing your information (or your resume) publicly. So if you’re looking for a place where you can highlight your skills, post your resume, and connect securely, join the ClearanceJobs Cleared Network.
It may seem like a lot of work to use social media sites as a cleared professional, but it isn’t. Most of these are steps anyone should be taking to keep tabs on their online identity and keep their information safe. Like anything, social media is a powerful tool that truly has changed the way we communicate – just remember to stay in the driver’s seat, stay smart, and you too can communicate with your kids, your grandma, and your career network online.