We live in a world today where sexual exploits of others practically are common knowledge. Few seem surprised when a celebrity sex tape gets released, and more people than ever send photos of themselves in the nude through text messages and Snapchat.
Still, many of us believe that what happens between the sheets is our personal business and not for public consumption. But if you’re going through the security clearance application process, you might be in for a rude awakening.
Depending on the level of security clearance required for your job, the government may want to know what goes on behind your closed doors. This fact came to light when the Office of Personnel Management informed the public in June that it had been the victim of cybersecurity attacks that involved the theft of millions of current and former government employees’ personal information.
“Hackers could have obtained a vast array of personal information,” according to a June 25 Government Executive article.
The Daily Beast reported a day earlier that the stolen records likely included “information about workers’ sexual partners, drug and alcohol abuse, debts, gambling compulsions, marital troubles, and any criminal activity.”
It may seem strange at first glance why the government would maintain this type of information on security clearance applicants. What do your sexual fetishes, partners and persuasions have to do with getting clearance?
“A lot,” says Catie Young, an attorney who specializes in security clearance law. “It’s all about a security clearance holder’s vulnerability to potential blackmail and coercion.”
An applicant’s sexual behavior is addressed in Guideline D of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. The concern is that a person whose past sexual behavior has involved criminal offenses, or is indicative of a personality or emotional disorder could cause concern over that person’s ability to protect classified information. Sexual behavior also can reflect a person’s lack of judgment or discretion, the Guideline states.
Perhaps the most distressing part of this cybersecurity attack is that the personal nature of this information gives the attackers – presumably Chinese spies – clear knowledge about which employees have access to our government’s most important information. This could make those employees top targets by foreign spies.
It is unknown how many employees are affected by this security breach, but some sources claim it could be as many as 18 million.
“Security clearance is a vital part of some people’s ability to do their jobs and earn a living,” Young says. “We look forward to learning how the OPM steps up its cybersecurity measures to protect this sensitive information.”