The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) has ruled that the government may not conduct broad background checks of low-level contract workers who do not work with classified material. In Nelson v. Nat.'l Aeronautics & Space Admin., NASA sought to conduct sweeping background checks on low-level contract employees of a private company working at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The background checks were part of the application process and governed by a Homeland Security Directive. The employees sued to stop the background checks from occurring, claiming, among other things, that the checks violated their right to privacy. The court agreed, noting that government intrusions into a person's private matters must be narrowly tailored to achieve a legitimate government interest. While the government's interest in national security was clearly legitimate, it could not show how the broad and highly private searches—which included inquiries into sensitive personal matters such as finances and mental health issues—were narrowly tailored to that interest when the employees were not working on matters directly connected to national security nor exposed to classified material. Although this ruling was limited to background searches conducted by a government agency, private sector employers should remain mindful of the privacy protections offered by state and federal law and carefully consider the appropriate breadth of proposed background checks.