The alleged disclosures of classified information by Airman Jake Teixeira have put renewed spotlight on the issue of sloppy security practices and blatant sharing of classified information on gaming forums and online chat rooms. The Teixeira case is high profile, but it’s not the first time gaming has caused questions for security clearance holders and applicants.

Security clearance holders are required to report foreign contacts on the SF-86 or self report new contacts. But should a security clearance holder who regularly plays games with foreign members be concerned?

The SF-86 requires initial reporting of foreign nationals with whom you have had a:

“…close and/or continuing contact…within the last seven (7) years with whom you, or your spouse, or legally recognized civil union/domestic partner, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation? Include associates as well as relatives, not previously listed in Section 18.”

In contrast – and in an area of confusion – already cleared individuals have slightly different reporting requirements, which define a foreign contact as:

“[c]ontinuing association…that involves bonds of affection, personal obligation, or intimate contact; or any contact with a foreign national that involves the exchange of personal information”

Is being bound by the common interest of a video game enough to warrant a report or listing on the SF-86? With gaming platforms, online chats, and forums in the news, it’s a question more security clearance applicants looking to stay in the clear may be asking.

The response will 100% depend on the individual – don’t assume you need to report every foreign national you play video games with. Consider the scope of the relationship, if you’ve shared personal information, and how close the relationship truly is. If you’ve never shared any information outside of game play, that’s likely not a contact the government needs to know about. But if your relationship has extended over months or years, the fellow gamer knows your name and any personal details about you – then it’s likely better to be on the safe side and report.

Whatever you do – don’t overshare. If you’d need to ask the foreign national for their actual name to report them, or if you’re wondering if you should indicate that you listed them on your SF-86 – just don’t. You make yourself more of a counterintelligence risk by disclosing personal details unnecessarily.

This is also a good reminder that any time you come across suspicious activity online – someone joins one of your communities and starts expressing interest in your work or any military connections, or you feel like they’re inquiring after information they shouldn’t – report it to your security officer or local FBI office. Gaming sites are absolutely sources for foreign adversaries – don’t be a loser and let them get access or information they shouldn’t.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer