The Intelligence and National Security Alliance published a white paper in March 2014 that discusses in part the benefits of leveraging technology to improve the periodic reinvestigation (PR) process for clearance holders. The PR would entail gathering information from your electronic footprint and evaluating that information to guide investigators in targeting the enhanced subject interview. It also enables adjudicators to review a person’s background for changes, suspicious activity, foreign travel, financial patterns, and various other items of concern.  However, the paper stipulated that before any approval for implementation can be given, further discussion on the legal complexities and privacy issues is needed.

The premise for the paper is that mountains of information can be retrieved from open sources, online data, and public records. Private companies already leverage technology to engage in continuous monitoring of your activities every day. Various types of data are legally available online and include purchases, loans, collections, credit, demographics, taxes, insurance, permits, employment, liens, judgments, criminal records, consumer reports, academics, corporate holdings, phones, postal service, real estate, political affiliations, and charities.

Your Electronic Footprint and the Background Investigation Process

If private companies or individuals can collect this information, then it would stand to reason that the government should be able to leverage this same information to create a more complete picture of who you are in order to determine your level of trustworthiness to protect national security.

For those who may be applying for a security clearance or those that are current clearance holders, be aware of the fact that your electronic footprint may be considered during the course of a background investigation in the very near future. Ensure you report significant life events, foreign travel and contacts, and any other information that falls within the self-reporting criteria that may impact your continuing eligibility for access to classified national security information. As is always the case, withholding or hiding information compounds any issues that could have been mitigated had they been reported.

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Marko Hakamaa served in various military police positions with the United States Army worldwide for 22 years before retiring in 2006 as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he transitioned into the civilian workforce as a contractor background investigator for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) before entering civil service as a Security Specialist in 2009.