PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — Sailors and Marines deployed around the world, and their families at home don’t go a day without a reminder of the benefits and risks of the communication environment of today.
Whether it’s “friending” or “liking” on Facebook, “following” and “tweeting” on Twitter, sharing photostream on Flickr or virtually hanging out with a circle of friends on Google+, the digital revolution has changed the way service members and their families communicate.
“You can protect yourself by disabling functions on social media, such as geotagging, which pinpoints your location,” said Lt. Theresa Donnelly, director for public affairs social media at U.S. Pacific Command. “Should you be in a classified location, for the safety of your command, this information must be protected.”
Social media sites began with sharing posts about your life mainly to connect with family and friends. Today, with the rapid growth of social networking, more and more people realize the benefits and simplicity of communicating through social media, thus, expanding to the workplace.
“On a daily basis, social media networks provide us with not only the means for sharing information but, more importantly, opportunities to build relationships with the wider Navy family and supporters all around the region,” said Chuck Bell, emerging media director at U.S. Pacific Fleet.
While social networking can be useful and fun, service members and their families should consider the risks and vulnerabilities in both personal and command activities by practicing operation security (OPSEC).
Observing OPSEC keeps potential adversaries from discovering critical information on social media sites. Using common sense and limiting detailed information that you share will help to protect yourself, service members, families and the command’s mission.
Here are a few tips to also be aware of from CHINFO’s Navy Ombudsman Social Media Handbook:
•Protect your families by limiting, to the extent practical, detailed information about them such as addresses, towns or schools.
•Understand profile security settings so you can make informed choices about who sees what on your profile.
•Keep sensitive information safe. Do not discuss sensitive information such as ship/unit movements in advance, personnel rosters, training or deployment schedules or anything else that may compromise the personal privacy of the crew and their families and the command’s mission.
•Educate families about online OPSEC (http://www.facebook.com/NavalOPSEC)
As more commands engage in social media every day, Facebook being the most popular, has proved to be a valuable tool to communicate instantly with the community and its stakeholders.
“Social media networks are extremely important to our communication efforts, and that’s particularly true during a crisis. We witnessed the benefit of social media firsthand last year in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as family members in particular turned to the social networks for information and to communicate with both military organizations and their neighbors,” Bell said.
Since social media is an open forum, the community needs to be informed of the do’s and don’ts of posting. This makes a command policy a valuable part of social media posting.
“It’s imperative that social media content managers have a posting policy when engaging on social media and then stick to it. This includes rules regarding third-party advertising, comments that violate operational security, and ensuring that the community is respectful of others,” Donnelly added.
Social media allows deployed members to stay in touch with their loved ones at home, reconnects long lost friends and also makes it possible to stay connected through electronic devices around the clock. With the convenience of instant communication, service members and their families are encouraged to appreciate this opportunity while practicing operation security and to be mindful of what information they share on the Internet.