Social Media

OPM wants to fold deep web, social media into background checks

computer and network

The Office of Personnel Management is moving quickly to scope out options for incorporating social media and other public records into the security clearance process.

In a request for information posted April 8, OPM's Federal Investigative Services asked the private sector for automated tools that could trawl for "publicly available electronic information," which OPM defines as including unprotected social media posts and records only available via purchase or subscription.

The RFI specifically asks for tools capable of combing through the "deep web" -- a reference to certain types of online documents and databases whose contents are typically not indexed by search engines.

OPM is also seeking tools that can handle 20 to 50 subjects per week, with a three- to five-day turnaround.

The push for social media scanning comes as FIS is being replaced by the National Background Investigations Bureau, which the Defense Department is designing and OPM is overseeing. It should be operational by 2017.

New capabilities might mollify congressional critics of the security clearance process, such as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

"As we're doing a background investigation, how could you not go look at their Facebook page or their Twitter posts or their Instagram or Snapchat or any of the other ones?" Chaffetz asked in a February hearing on the bureau. "Go hire a bunch of teenagers, and they'd do it better than we're doing it."

Responses to the RFI are due by April 15.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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