No one would willingly provide the enemy with information that could harm our soldiers, however, social media users could unknowingly be doing this every day. Operation security, or OPSEC, is essential to keeping our service members safe. OPSEC is small pieces of information that when made public can paint a bigger picture about a mission, unit, or other essential area of the military. Mission security is a responsibility shared by everyone including spouses and families.
Social networking is popular among military families and helpful for keeping in contact with family and friends all around the globe. Service members and their families post updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, that when placed with other information can provide the enemy with sensitive knowledge. The increasing use of social media is a growing concern for military officials tasked with unit security. One status update about an impending deployment from a soldier in Fort Hood, Texas, has the potential to be viewed around the globe, and can unintentionally put an entire unit at risk.
Once information is posted online the user no longer has control over where it ends up. With a simple share of a status or photo, information can be passed from computer to computer around the globe. While we may think a profile is private, it can be viewed by more individuals than commonly realized. Additional programs, add-ons, and games allow access to otherwise private profiles and subsequently their information. An additional concern, despite profile settings, is not personally knowing every friend. Fake profiles can easily be constructed to have similar interests or common duty stations. By adding these fake profiles, they are now privy to information shared among friends.
Even those who avoid posting details are at risk for providing the enemy with details if they are not careful. Something as innocent as a photograph can compromise unit security. Photographs can provide sensitive information through identify terrain features or objects. Geotagging, or automatic tags contained within the metatags in photos uploaded from smartphones, can provide the enemy with locations of units, equipment, and transports. This information can lead the enemy directly to our units, putting them at risk of attack. Many users are unaware their smart phones add this tag since it is not easily seen.
Don’t post specific details. When posting updates ensure to leave out all specifics including locations, dates, times, and areas. Posting general updates such as “I will be deploying to Afghanistan in the spring” rather than “I will be deploying to Kandahar next Monday”.
Post about events that have already happened. Posting about events after they occur is the safest way to ensure mission integrity is protected. However, be sure to never post sensitive mission details even after the fact.
Disable your GPS feature on your phone. Disabling this feature will prevent your camera from geotagging your photos, or accidentally tagging at certain locations. The GPS feature, while convenient, allows patterns to be monitored and locations to be tracked.
Never post equipment, personnel, or mission statues online. Thinking about complaining about how shorthanded guard duty is on a certain shift? Think again.
If you have any questions concerning the use of social media and OPSEC, be sure to contact your chain of command. Security is everyone’s business.