Avoiding Military Information Security Violations While Using Social Media

Avoiding Military Information Security Violations While Using Social MediaAn enormous responsibility that today’s military personnel have that yesterday’s did not is how to use social media in a responsible manner. Responsible use of social media is a way that keeps you close to friends and loved ones while deployed or at your base but does not reveal any information that is useable or potentially useable to an adversary or existing enemy.  Social Media is defined as the traditional forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, blogging, and photo sharing.  


The following items are to help you use social media in a responsible manner and continue to use social media as a vital tool to keep you in touch with friends and family and to deny vital and potentially vital information to current and future adversaries.


Avoiding Military Information Security Violations Using Social Media #1 – Do Not Geo Locate Photographs. Photographs share a great deal of information both seen and unseen.  One of the easiest ways to safeguard information is to turn off the geographic location feature on a phone and / or camera when you take pictures.  Additionally, you also do not want to share your location on any photo sharing application.  There are a lot of easy to determine information from military photographs – units, ranks, weapons, and potential missions.  However, when you cannot geographically locate the picture, it becomes enormously more difficult to use the picture for a military purpose.  Remember, no locations in the picture or in the application.


Avoiding Military Information Security Violations Using Social Media #2 – Check Your Emotions When Posting. When using Social Media to post, consider using Buffer or Hootsuite (to name only a few) to create and schedule your Social Media posts.  This way you can calmly compose, check, and attach photographs that tells your deployment story or what you are doing.  Most importantly, scheduling Social Media does not allow time pressure or emotions to interfere.  Anger, missing friends and family, or a quick comment (“just got extended for 45 days in the Persian Gulf because of a ship breakdown @Norfolk”) can cause problems quickly.  Remember, a social media scheduling service can aid staying in contact and prevent emotional out bursts on social media.


Avoiding Military Information Security Violations Using Social Media #3 – Tell a Positive Story. A lot of trouble with military social media can be avoided when you tell positive or interesting stories.  Take a picture of your breakfast, lunch and dinner.  That is a story for several days.  What do you like, dislike, what are the “special” procedures and rules when you eat, etc.?  This is especially interesting for children because it is a humanizing, interesting, and affirming story for a deployment.  Moreover, pictures of military personnel making “ranger” pudding and the like with MRE’s is an interesting story.  Additionally, pictures of day-to-day activities of where you work, sleep, etc. helps give a feeling of even temporary familiarity to those that miss you.  Remember, positive stories go a long way.


Avoiding Military Information Security Violations Using Social Media #4 – Write About Your Experience & Don’t Speculate. Blog writers and social media posters can get into trouble with military authorities when they speculate on upcoming missions, the success of missions, the effectiveness of tactics, and what types and quantities of military specialties are at your location.  When you tell your own story, a great deal of these concerns go away because you are telling what happened to you and what your perspective is.  When you criticize and speculate on past and future missions, you are crossing a line.  As a rule, do not mention ranks and names, units, weapons, weapon capabilities, supply levels, or mission preparations.  Remember; tell your story with good background and detail.


Avoiding Military Information Security Violations Using Social Media #5 – Obey the Commands on Social Media of Your Unit. Every unit and every commander has a different level of comfort and familiarity with social media and its uses.  If you can, look to inform and teach how social media can and is used to portray and transmit a positive message to the country and to the unit’s members.  If you cannot, then obey the issued rules and orders if you disagree.  Remember, an order on social media use and posting is still a lawful order that must be followed.


Using social media to tell your story and stay in touch without violating information security protocols is achievable. Do not use location on words & pictures, do not post when mad, tell a positive story, write about your experiences, and obey your units commands on social media use.


Related links:

Social Media OPSEC PPT – via the US Navy


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About the blogger:

Chad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success. Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.  Chad is an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in over 110 different articles in over 85 separate publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.


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