In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

  • Security clearance checks to include social media reviews
  • YouTube tests a new messaging app
  • Germany issues a new cyber sabotage warning
  • Pfizer won’t permit use of its drugs in lethal injections

The details:

  • Security clearance background checks to include social media

Investigators can now probe Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites as a part of background checks for security clearances — something that lawmakers said Friday was a classic case of the government playing catch-up with technology.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper signed a policy directive announced Friday that allows investigators to collect publicly available social media information pertaining to the person whose background is being checked. Unless there is a nationalsecurity concern or the need to report a crime, any information pertaining to people who appear in the subject’s social media will not be investigated or pursued, the directive says.

“It defied common sense for the government to overlook social media data available to anyone with an Internet connection,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee. He said he was glad the intelligence community was taking the step to fix “such a glaring lapse in our security clearanceprocess.”

“It may surprise many readers to know the government only now is codifying its approach to the virtual lives of the people it entrusts with real secrets,” William Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, wrote in an opinion piece announcing the new policy Friday in The Hill newspaper. “What may be less surprising is that technology often outpaces policy.”

Evanina said the policy does not allow the government to “request or require individuals subject to the background investigation to provide passwords or log into private accounts, or take any action that would disclose non-publicly available mediainformation.”

Evanina told Congress on Friday that the agencies had “to strike the right balance between what we need to … obtain reasonably from social media in the ever-growing Internet age and balance that with the civil liberties and privacy” of people seeking clearances.

  • YouTube tests messaging feature to keep people in its app

YouTube is testing a messaging feature in its smartphone app so people can share and discuss videos without resorting to other ways to connect with their friends and family.

The messaging option announced Friday initially is only being offered to a small group of people with YouTube’s app installed on an iPhone or device running on Google’s Android software. If all goes well, messaging will be included in a future app update available to everyone with an iPhone or an Android phone.

YouTube, part of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, is examining whether the messaging feature will encourage its audience to spend even more time inside its popular video app. Currently, people typically copy links to YouTube and paste them into text messages or other messaging apps such as Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

By removing a reason for its audience to switch over to another app, YouTube can generate more opportunities to show ads to the more than 1 billion people who watch video on its service.

WhatsApp, owned by Facebook Inc., has more than 1 billion users, while Facebook’s own Messenger app has more than 900 million users, posing a threat to other digital services vying for people’s attention. Snapchat is smaller, with about 100 million daily users, but growing rapidly, particularly among teenagers and young adults who tend to watch a lot of video on their smartphones.

  • German intelligence agency warns of Russian cyber sabotage

The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency warned Friday that Russia is engaged in electronic espionage efforts and appears willing to conduct cyber sabotage against critical infrastructure.

The BfV agency said Russian intelligence agencies appear to be behind an “aggressive” campaign of electronic espionage going back at least seven years known as Sofacy/ATP 28, whose targets have included the German Parliament.

It identified another campaign, codenamed “Sandworm,” that it said appeared to be aimed at sabotaging universities, telecoms firms and energy companies.

“Cyberspace is a place of hybrid warfare,” said BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen. “The information security of German government, administrative, business, science and research institutions is under permanent threat.”

“The campaigns observed by the BfV are generally directed at obtaining information, i.e espionage,” he added. “Meanwhile, though, Russian intelligence agencies are also showing a readiness to (carry out) sabotage.”

Germany’s defense ministry announced recently that it is creating its own cyberwarfare department in response to what it says is the growing threat of electronic attacks.

The notion of ‘hybrid warfare’ — mentioned by Maassen — refers to a mixture of conventional attacks, special operations, sabotage and propaganda.

  • Pfizer says it’s blocking use of drugs for lethal injections

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer said Friday it was blocking use of its drugs in lethal injections, which means all federally approved drugmakers whose medications could be used for executions have now put them off limits.

“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve. Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment,” the company said in the statement made public on its website Friday.

The company’s announcement has limited immediate impact. Its action is an enhancement of a previous policy that follows Pfizer’s $15.23 billion purchase of Lake Forest, Illinois-based Hospira Inc. last year. Hospira had previously prohibited the use of its drugs in capital punishment, as have several other drugmakers.

Pfizer shares closed even Friday at $33.19.

The development means the approximately 25 FDA-approved companies worldwide able to manufacture drugs used in executions have now blocked the use of the drugs, according to Reprieve, a New York-based human rights organization opposed to the death penalty.