Young people with dreams of espionage and intrigue may do well to temper their interest in social networking. Every year the CIA has to drop several potential spies do to things they’ve said on public networking sites, said CIA hiring chief Ron Patrick, in a recent interview with CNN Money.

“Obviously, secrecy and social media are at odds with each other,” said Patrick.

So what’s a social spy to do? You don’t need to give up social networking entirely, but following a few tips could help you preserve your intelligence community career potential.


A new trend for spies and service members alike? Skip the inclination to make yourself easy to find on social networking sites, and consider using your first and middle name rather than your full name. Listing unnecessary personal details (including date of birth), is also a no-no for just about anyone – the more data out there, the easier it is for you to be the target of a phishing scam.

2. Don’t Disappear

This tip may be surprising, but it’s one Patrick pointed out – if you’re very active on social networking sites and suddenly disappear or stop posting entirely, that can be a signal to foreign intelligence agencies. If you’re a social media butterfly, don’t drop all contacts just because you decide you may want a job in intelligence.

3. Beware foreign connections.

It’s wise to ignore any request from someone you don’t know. For those pursuing a security clearance career, think carefully about all of your overseas contacts. Every friend is a potentially contact you’ll need to self-report on your SF-86. Unless it’s a true friend or contact, it’s probably best to ignore that request from a friend-of-a-friend you met once at a party.

4. Be Leery of LinkedIn

People tend to think ‘professional networking site’ and forget good OPSEC. Don’t post your resume or amazing defense industry credentials on a public-facing social networking site. It’s best to save career networking for a secure, password protected career portal.

5. Don’t be afraid to be yourself- your censored self.

You can be social, and have a social media presence, and still get a job within the intelligence community. But just like any employer will do a little digging on your online presence, expect intelligence agencies to do a lot of digging. They’ll want to know how you use social networking sites, how you leverage your networks, and the attitude you have to your friends and country. If you use social networking sites to vent, be a cyber bully or post inappropriate photos, your judgment will certainly come into question. So, go ahead and post a pic of that amazing latte art. Don’t post that spring break pic. And while what’s on the web can never truly be taken back, a good online clean-up never hurt anyone.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.