back to article Spooks and techies to be vetted for their online networks

Be careful who your online friends are, as they could well damage your career. That is the slightly chilling warning sent to us this week by a reader who works at a senior level providing IT support on a range of Government projects. He writes: "I'm not clear on what the official line is on Facebook regarding vetting but we are …

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Dead Vulture

There's A Difference Between

A sensible vetting procedure for a post requiring security clearance and Gordongrad like scope creep which means everyone gets every aspect of their lives assessed, and if the stats suggest something the "government" doesn't like then you don't get that job, it goes on your central record and bang, you don't get other jobs either. Bang goes your career, your family struggles financially, et cetera all because of some faceless quangodrone and his stat software.

You see how this ties in nicely with the all seeing, all knowing central database?

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Silver badge

Gee, really?

"Speculation aside, the message is clear: what you put out on social networking sites can come back to haunt you. When it comes to vetting, it's not just the embarrassing pictures that matter; embarrassing friends – and possibly even friends of friends – may matter as well."

Ya think?

Pardon me while I wander off, muttering to myself about the stupidity of today's kids ... I mean honestly, from time immemorial who you rub shoulders with HAS mattered. Why do people think that the electronic world would be any different?

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Stop

Facebook friends vs. USB pen drives.

What is worse? Having dodgy "friends" on social networks or actually losing notebooks and usb memory stick with the NHS, Passport, Child ... database on them?

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Black Helicopters

Minor correction

Quote: "Next they'll be going through our address books."

They have been going through your addressbooks tovarish. And they did not like what they have found.

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Anonymous Coward

Within statistical 5% band

So instead of 'beyond reasonable doubt', we're at the stage of within 5% of statistics? And you let a government statistician decide how that stats are calculated?

Suppose for example we weighted the calls by the cuteness of the other member. Presumably men call cute women more than other men? So statistically speaking, the sum should be weighted to allow for that bias. The call is more likely to be social if the partners are of the opposite sex.

Then there's the gabby factor, social people call more than anti-social ones after all. Do we allow for that in the weighted factor?

What about women vs men?

Then there's the whole animal-rights=terrorism thing. Blair linked the two, but that was largely politics (and money, there was a substantial donation to the Labour party campaign funds). We have this weird thing in the terrorism laws now, where it is a crime to call for a ban on a company for testing on animals.

Consumer boycotts are illegal now? So the anti-fur campaigns that called for a boycott of real fur would be imprisoned as terrorists now under Blairs law?

Sinister.

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Anonymous Coward

Jacqui and Telephone logs

Hey, wait a second, Jacqui is being investigated for expenses fraud (they call it fiddling, I call it fraud, it's deception to falsely obtain money i.e. fraud in my books). In this article they check the telephone logs of the activists to determine their activity.

Jacqui Smiths mobile phone cell log would say which nights she spent in which place, you could prove if that London room at her sisters was REALLY her main residence by checking her mobile phone logs.

Since she wants to check everyone elses phone logs, presumably she won't disagree.

If she has done nothing wrong she has nothing to hide.

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Paris Hilton

A Queen's Shilling worth accepting ..... but Mum's the Word, of course :-)

"We put these questions to a number of government departments, including the Home Office, who are responsible for providing information about the activities of the Security Service (MI5)."

Err..... horse the cart before putting the, John? Any Security Service worth the name or a proud Moniker/Alphabet Spaghetti title will only ever provide what it would wish you to know.

Prudent Golden Rule #01007XXXX

"While these are essentially mapping tools, using the links between individuals within a network to create a picture of the relationships between its members, tools that use transaction data can take matters a good deal further." ...... QuITe. And in whatever Direction/Frame of Mind that a Skilled Operand would choose to Groom the Watchers/Analysts/Spooks ...... with them providing Sublimely Vital Energising Information for Virtually Remote, Covert Enabling, Mutually Beneficial Assistance, which in the Simplest of Cases would be nothing more Difficult than a Massive Lump Sum Credit Transfer/Quiet Windfall Lottery Win or whatever.

"The sad news for anoraks is that research suggests that online promiscuity does not, in the end, lead to us having more friends than we would have in the real world." ...... The better news for fans of unadulterated/adult e rated promiscuity is that online in the virtual world have you more friends with which to get real/practice what you preach?

Take Care if you Dare Win though, and be Aware and/or Beware ..... for IT is a HoneyTrap Jungle out there ..... Full of Losers and Users with Nothing of lasting Value to Share ....... Day Trippers rather than ZerodDay Travellers.

And who develops Vetting Protocols for Vetting of Developed Vetting Vetters? Now that would be Sweet and Sticky ..... well, done well, a Labour of True and Passionate Love, one Imagines.

And Paris because ........ well you surely don't need to ask, if you would or you could, with that pleasant decision being entirely in her hands and/or being laid out entirely at her feet? Ok .... Stop dreaming now, El Regers. :-) What possible good would you be to her that would make you addictively memorable/unforgettable? Passing ships in the night though, is something else.

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Alert

Hmmm,

"...scope creep which means everyone gets every aspect of their lives assessed"

Isn't this what they call it in the Church of Scientology (or is that audited) - Wonder how many up there in the gov/civil service are members...

AC 'cos I don't want to be visited

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Is This So New?

Seems to me to be just a modern example of cliques and old-boys networks and discriminatory practices. Alan Turing pretty much suffered the same sort of scrutiny and consequences for his personal contacts as the article suggests.

In general our connections may be primarily via the Internet but I think banding together for self-perpetuation has been around for about as long as primates have.

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Anonymous Coward

I think they've got it just about right.

Bacon sandwiches aside, who wants someone working on your dodgy system who is an exhibitionist, and it doesn't get any more exhibitionist that putting your entire life online.

Our side must know what the tactics are, being as Stella said the other day that the UK are no angels, but,...

It's a dodgy world out there is it not. We can't rely on anyone to be nice.

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Animal Rights and Terrorism.

"We have this weird thing in the terrorism laws now, where it is a crime to call for a ban on a company for testing on animals."

"Consumer boycotts are illegal now? So the anti-fur campaigns that called for a boycott of real fur would be imprisoned as terrorists now under Blairs law?"

Errr no. We have this weird thing where it's a crime to set peoples cars on fire, harass them in the street or on the own doorstep, make threats of violence against them, their friends and their families, and spread malicious falsehoods about them. If it walks like a terrorist, makes a noise like a terrorist, and conspires to cause fear, distress, and destruction like a terrorist then it's not particularly surprising it gets treated accordingly.... Strangely enough those organisations which campaign against the ill treatment of animals without condoning and/or supporting the nastier end of direct action (or providing a hiding place for those who do) don't seem to have a problem getting their adverts onto cinema screens, seem perfectly able to get sympathetic press coverage for their activities on the street, and don't generally seem to have their membership arrested. Funny that...

"Sinister."

Not half as sinister as prowling round in black balaclavas and digging corpses up...

--

JG

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Anonymous Coward

data retention policy

I'm surprised that no-one so far has mentioned the lack of any right to remove a social networking account.

Facebook DOES NOT delete your account, EVER.

So.. if it comes to being a problem with getting future work the message must become, don't use social networking, ever. If you have in the past then tough!

I'm no fan of FB et all, and having the right to remove all your data is part of the Data Protection Act, only FB sidesteps that by being non-uk.

Also it's not just security jobs that vet your online activities... I always google and FB -search any potential employees. And yes i totally judge them on the how hot their friends are and how often they appear to be out partying.

It's harsh but saves me hiring muppets!

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Happy

6 degrees

Aren't all Facebook users connected to each other if you follow the links deeply enough. Or is it just to Kevin Bacon?

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Anonymous Coward

Rounder errors

Is he a radical? = (Comments on political sides)/ (comments on all sites) > 0.5

Is he a pervert? = (Filter web log by Jacqui Smith illegal list) > 1

Political extremist? = (Filter email by BNP)>1

Does he fail ? Score > 0.3

Here's the thing about this, the stats hide the detail. If you knew he regularly visited a banned kiddy diddling site that would be one thing, but what if that site in question was Wikipedia and their definition of kiddling site is IWFs definition? Whoever chooses the parameters defines who is hired and who is fired. It's simply a way of hiding the criteria for selection from the person deciding to hire or not.

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vetting is about failing

The spooks who perform the vetting procedure are looking for reasons to fail you. As individuals, or as a department as a whole, they have nothing to gain from granting someone a "passed" status. it's not as if you can appeal a judgement - we're not talking open, democratic, procedures here. Better to fail 100 candidates who might just be dodgy than to let through one that would ruin your personal reputation.

Anyway, true geeks have nothing to worry about - they don't have any friends.

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Now I do believe that that is Illegal...

.... To vet your potential employees by looking at their FB profiles and googling them. It comes under some discrimination law or another, or equality law....

I wonder - if someone made a complaint about it, how long the AC would remain an AC... probably not very long at all. I bet the reg is spying on us all, recording every comment we make.

Mines the one with the tin foil lining... yeah, and matching tinfoil hat!

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Go

BFD

As a worker in the USofA commercial nuclear industry, this is nothing. The fact is if you want to play their game and take their money you follow their rules. Period. And that's the way it should be.

Like it or leave it, no whining allowed.

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Well Qualified

I don't have any friends. Where do I apply to be Head Of Security Services?

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Pirate

Me no have FB account

Would this count for or against me?

After all, what am I hiding? (Apart from having no friends - thankyou Pete for confirming my geek status).

Still, I would probably fail as my wife is a closet Nazi with IRA sympathies. She's also quite mental :)

Is this an SS deaths-head I see before me?

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Paris Hilton

Facebook bad...

Linked-In recommendations good?????????

I mean, if it's all about statistics/numbers and there's nothing qualitative, how do they know what are "good" links and what are "bad" links?

Paris knows, but a bunch of algorithms?

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Thumb Up

RE: vetting is about failing

> Anyway, true geeks have nothing to worry about - they don't have any friends.

Then they will fail the vetting, part of the process involves getting character references, a colleague once waited two years before getting the required clearance until he knew some people who were not family longer than two years.

I think suggestion is a good idea, I don't like the idea of someone who is say developing nuclear missiles who's social life revolves around talking to people on facebook.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sinister

"Errr no. We have this weird thing where it's a crime to set peoples cars on fire, harass them in the street or on the own doorstep, make threats of violence against them, their friends and their families, and spread malicious falsehoods about them."

But that's not what the law says, it makes it a crime to "call for an economic boycott" of companies testing on animals. Setting peoples cars on fire was already illegal whether to protest animal rights or not.

So yes sinister. If you made protesting against Labour a crime, then protesters would become radicalised and terrorism would result. You take away someones voice and they become extreme. They should be free to call for economic boycotts, because that's what happens in a free society.

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Black Helicopters

Facebook is the least of the checks

People are concerned about someone checking their details on facebook et al... For my initial security clearance for Army Intelligence aged 18, my family and friends were visited and interviewed over some time to do background checks and character assessment.

Then when in we underwent psychometrics and other assessments on an ongoing basis to see if we were suitable. So this is an extremely minor extension to a full survey of a person. Considering what I went on to do this is a very trivial issue and part of the very necessary checks, you have to vet the watchers!

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Unhappy

It's less about

the security of the country and more about the security of the person or persons involved.

I am far from a fan of the M.O.D - having worked inside it for 5 years - but I do agree with this move.

about a year or so ago, A group on facebook appeared - called support staff of the M.O.D or something like that - and everyone joined it in the building I worked in - it was like a terrorists hit list - a who is database of people to kidnap and retrieve passwords from - or as is far more likely - a list of people who needed their cars blown up.

people are stupid at the best of times, on social networking sites doubly so.

DV clearance is a Joke anyway, anyone who is saying its hard to achieve is having a laugh - as I with my 4 cautions for class B's 2 for class A's and an ABH charge against me received my clearance pretty dammed quickly as I was Honest and up front with them in the interview.

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Paris Hilton

PFY Strikes again

It's some PFY in the security services who came up with the idea to cover his own sorry arse after being caught on facebook once to often during working hours.

But just on the off chance it's actually serious, I'm off to add Osama to Wacqui's FB friends list.

Paris, if she had FB she'd not need to be on crappy TV shows looking for friends.

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Anonymous Coward

Wanna work on a secure government project?

"Secure government project"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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Black Helicopters

What worries me most...

"Two individuals received significantly longer sentences than the rest of the defendants on the basis that analysis of telephone call traffic – that is, who called whom, when, not what was said – suggested that they were the ringleaders."

Or in the words of Lionel Hutz, "Well, Your Honor. We've plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence."

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How are they going to see the friendslist in the first place?

Is the author suggesting that facebook allow unfettered access to the security services, or that anyone who's involved in sensitive work would be stupid enough to allow their friendslist to be public?

I do wonder how permissive the vetting is these days; if they turn people down based on being alternative (rather than actually dangerous), I'm stuffed for all eternity based on my friends..

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Coat

Secure?

I'd happily "work on a secure government project". Just find me one.

As far as I can tell, they're about as secure as my money when my missus visits a chocolate, handbag and shoe shop.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing New

Such vetting is indeed nothing new. My mother had a friend back in the 60s who joined the Royal Navy to do something hush hush. They came & interviewed her & her parents (my grandparents). They asked her about her friend's sexuality & other things she didn't have a clue about (a more innocent age). They also knew a lot about them (though we never found out how they knew). The internet obviously just makes things a bit easier.

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Unhappy

@jake

You need to be aware that everything you do online gets stored, will effect your future, remember it will be stored quite often, for a very long, long time. Additionally be aware that any action you take will often morph into a dozen other forms far faster than you could possibly imagine. Those naughty holiday snaps, quickly end up in some YouTube compilation with suitable audio soundtrack!

These are things we are only just beginning to learn about this wonderful medium, it needs respect. However this first generation making the most use of "da net", having never known a time when it wasn't there, I feel are damaging their futures beyond repair, we may have created a "damaged test" generation that no one will want nor trust...

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b

Honestly

Is anyone surprised by this?

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But....

If you are not on a social networking site....would that count against you ?

Probably................................

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Silver badge

Truly Psychotic makes for the Perfect Chief Spy Catcher in the Raw? .

The best Spooky Security types are always Enigmatic Jeckyll and Hyde types able, at the drop of a hat, to be whoever they are and want to be, and thus have they Perfect Cover which bypasses any Peer Review with a novel leadership from them which is Third Party followed to see if it really can go where it has been thought or shared to be going.

I do wonder what juicy titbits of dodgy information the Intelligence Services have on the gang of ne'er-do-wells in the Cabinet to have them constantly flogging a dead horse in a thoroughbred race.

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Anonymous Coward

To err is Human..

But to really foul things up you need a computer, because with computers and by extension the internet, one small slip can become one very big one. It's amazing how easy it is to get a friend to reveal things they shouldn't about what they do. Social Networking and blogging sites allow you to chat with hundreds of people you don't really know, so is it really surprising that social networking is now a part of the vetting procedure.

I for one am very glad it is.

BTW - If you a re a member of certain religious sects, you will find you have zero chance of ever being cleared to any significant level in most western countries.

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Anonymous Coward

Does anyone go to Farcebook?

Does anyone with a life actually go to Farcebook?

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Anonymous Coward

Practicalities

I think there's some validity in it. It's about assessing your personality and likelyhood to disclose secret information.

Because social networking is so new, there's probably no firm evidence that people that have profiles and hundreds of virtual friends are more likely to violate the official secrets acts.

But, evidentally, the issue is one of "if they're putting their life online for any Tom Dick or Harry to see and they feel a need to do this, then is there a risk they might disclose information?"

It's a weak connection I admit. But I guess they're playing safe, which is arguably the right thing to do given at DV level the kind of information to which they'd have access.

And I think there's a practical issue. Those virtual friends will need to be checked out as part of the vetting process, in case they turn out to be real friends that you have had genunine contact with. And if you've engaged in communication with people, by email, telephone, then the vetting people want to know what the nature of your relationship with them is.

If you've 300 friends on facebook, which ones have you had contact with? It's a big job for the security services to vet them all. But if they don't...and they miss an important contact, someone you're friendly with in russia......

And you don't really know whose these virtual friends are, and you're engaging in discussions with them, they don't want to employ people that feel the need to befriend any tom dick or harry (or jane!) out of the blue, if there is a need to do that online, is there a need to do that in the real world? and that Jane might be a Russian agent. It is definitely how people are compromised.

The security services want to employ people with a low profile, that are discreet, they don't want extroverts shouting from the roof tops "I've got a high level government clearance..."

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@AC 12:47

I think you'll find that being up front about your past shows that you are not susceptible to blackmail. The crimes in-of-themselves are not justification for denying the clearance.

As for details on facebook, I think someone has mentioned already that the amount of details about youself that you publish is a good indication of how discreet you are, and whether you post silly things like 'I'm on holiday now - please break in and steal my un-encrypted dod laptop'.

As if that could ever happen.

..

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Black Helicopters

MIx might have more active uses for FB

MI5/6/n/CID might set up accounts of "people" declaring dodgy interests, and see who gets in touch.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Well Qualified By Frank

If you are FFF, I'm hurt. (sniff)

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Pirate

If you show me yours...

... then you'll be waiting a L-O-N-G time to see mine.

Let's see now, standard bank, building society and debt collector questions - "mother's maiden name", "date of birth", "address with postcode". How many morons have put that info into Facebook and the other social networking systems?

And has anyone else had a 'private' photo from their dekstop or laptop show up on Hotmail? My mother-in-law appears on my "Do you want to add these people to your Notwerk" screen when I log into Snotmail, and it comes with a pic she took - of my **FATHER-in-law** - while on holiday a couple of years ago. And that picture has NEVER been stored anywhere other than in the "My Documents/My Pictures" folder...

So it might not just be what you knowingly add to The Internet that gets you, it's what the [DELETED] get from you without permission you need to watch out for as well...

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Coat

Meh

So what about those of us who use bits of <insert social network here>, to stay in touch with normal social contacts, arrange the odd beer or two, play a couple of silly games and not actually have a vaguely pro or anti stance?

Especially the ones, like me, who lie through their teeth (I know exactly when some little scrote tries to use my details off the web because every site I use has a different birthday, none of them real...) and don't post anything they care about keeping in the slightest bit secret because we know perfectly well that the world, it's dog, their mothers and any little green men who haven't got a life are listening?

That said, I can totally understand the "who's your friend" tracking. They're welcome to mine - the only Russian on it is a Meerkat, although the UK spooks are probably going to be more concerned about the French contacts... (No, I'm not old enough to remember Sir Humphrey Appleby. Honest)

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Boffin

@Peter Kay

Easily...they ask you, do you have a Facebook account, you say yes, they say, show me the friendlist, easy, done.

If you lie about having a Facebook account and they find it...your clearance is gone, and so is your job.

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Coat

What is a friend?

I think the term "friend" has been rather perverted by these sites.

I wonder if the people doing the vetting realise the different meaning.

But, yeah, activity on these sites ought to be part of vetting.

I went to a World Science Fiction Convention a few months after the Berlin Wall came down: some people were worried by the prospect of meeting Eastern Euopeans. Reality had changed faster than the rules, But which rules were now superfluous? I doubt such chance contacts turn anyone into a spy or security risk, but if there were sufficient reasons otherwise to investigate somebody, who knows?

I really don't like these people being called "friends"

(Of course my coat looks ordinary.)

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xjy
Paris Hilton

Poor innocent sods who think any of this matters

The only thing that matters is the old skool tie. Wear the right shoes and tiepin, and you're in. All this paranoid palaver is for the proles to make people think it's a fair and rigorous procedure. My arse.

Try applying for the diplomatic service some time. They need people who are totally schizo while making pleasant chitchat and sizing up everyone and everything for future exploitation. If you can't lie in a cool and convincing way, your chances of getting in are zilch. And the best training for lying, cheating and hypocrisy is a posh public school. Well, borstal too maybe, but they haven't got a country to give a fuck about.

(Paris cos she doesn't give a fuck in just one country, either)

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Anonymous Coward

Well, hate to say it but...

...jeez those `social networking` sites are r*tarded. I still cannot fathom why on earth (other than base, need to be validated) anyone would post anything about themselves on any of these piece o crap sites. Just MHO. It's almost like ppl WANT to be stalked by the state. STOP MAKING THEIR HORRIBLE LITTLE LIVES EASY CHAPS, FFS!

If you really have friends, call them on the phone, or better still, actually SEE THEM IN REAL LIFE! ; ) (but be sure to do so in the confines of a leaden box!)

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IT Angle

This is insane.

Ok so If I knew a family and they get divorced and I knew their kids since they were 2 years old and now the kids are 16 and they want to know why they are on my friends list?

I am like an uncle to them. F--- them all for asking such questions.

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@Is This So New?

There's a difference between everyone you were a fag for at Eton turning out to be a Russian spy and having someone with a name begining with 'Al-' sending you a tweet.

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@The Fuzzy Wotnot

"You need to be aware that everything you do online gets stored, will effect your future, remember it will be stored quite often, for a very long, long time."

::shrugs:: My bored ramblings on Usenet from before the Great Renaming have never been linked to my RealLife[tm], so far as I know (you can find me on DejaGoo if you know where to look) ... and there were a LOT fewer people online back then. These days, I babble here when I'm in the office waiting for a phone call, or the Vet or farrier to show up, or whatever. I know ElReg keeps what I type around indefinitely, but I don't really care. It's not like I use my name, phone number, social security, banking, etc.

"Additionally be aware that any action you take will often morph into a dozen other forms far faster than you could possibly imagine. Those naughty holiday snaps, quickly end up in some YouTube compilation with suitable audio soundtrack!"

Those naughty snaps are on an air-gapped machine with an encrypted file system. The ONLY snaps I have online are a handful of photos of my show dogs (for the benefit of the breeders), and a couple pics of my sourdough bread that I put up for the folks at BreadAlone in New York (the wife & I toured the bakery in the Catskills when we lived in New Jersey, and the wife of the owner gave us some of their starter ... New York sourdough, in Sonoma, CA!).

"These are things we are only just beginning to learn about this wonderful medium, it needs respect."

What do you mean "just beginning to learn"? We knew about potential privacy issues before TCP/IP was invented. Take a look at the format of /etc/passwd ... which fields are mandatory, and which are optional? Why? For extra credit, what is ".nofinger" supposed to do? Does it always work? What is a better option?

"However this first generation making the most use of "da net", having never known a time when it wasn't there, I feel are damaging their futures beyond repair, we may have created a "damaged test" generation that no one will want nor trust..."

I do my best to try to educate. I suspect that over 50% aren't educable. The future is unknown.

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Joke

Nice JS phote

Angry expression like someone has disagreed wither her

Mouth open for stream of nonsense to come out of.

That is all

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