By GUIDON staffJuly 13, 2017
With the growing use of social media, in any part of the globe, at any time, a Soldier, Army civilian or Family member can post pictures from a deployment or talk about an Army mission.
But these seemingly innocent posts could contain sensitive information that endangers Soldiers by revealing locations, security measures, mission operations or troop movements, said the Army's social media experts.
Soldiers, Army civilians and Family members need to be mindful of what they put online, with operations security at the forefront of their considerations, said Rick Bowser, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Operations Security Program manager.
He said this applies to whether the person is a Soldier or Army civilian communicating as an organization or as an individual on social media sites.
"Don't post anything you wouldn't want displayed on a billboard or a poster in your yard for everyone to see," he said.
The Army provides information for Soldiers about the dos and don'ts of posting on social media at www.army.mil/socialmedia.
The dos include using social media to get out the message of your command, inform the public of Army activities or stay connected with loved ones. The don'ts include revealing sensitive information about missions, units or Soldiers.
The Army's social media experts tell Soldiers not to use location-based social networking services when deployed or in classified areas; for Soldiers and Families not to post specific dates or locations of deployments; and recommend setting privacy settings to "friends only" on personal accounts to prevent personal information from ending up in the wrong hands.
Bowser adds, to ensure privacy settings are up to date and checked frequently.
The Army also warns users about the geotagging feature that is automatically turned on in some smartphones and digital cameras. Geotagging is the equivalent to adding a 10-digit grid coordinate to a photograph telling where it was taken, which could reveal sensitive information about a location -- information that terrorists could use to target Soldiers or Army installations.
"Not only can someone see where an individual is physically located, but they can also see a photograph or video of the individual," Bowser said. "Think of the impact that would have if someone is deployed or on a special assignment and not paying attention to what is in the background. With the right app or software, an adversary could obtain longitude and latitude from a photograph in four clicks."
In order to address this issue, the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs posted a geotagging and location-based networking presentation online that explains how to adjust privacy settings on social media profiles to avoid geotagging.
In addition, this presentation provides an in-depth description about how GPS technology, similar to geotagging, poses additional risks for social media users. The presentation can be found at www.slideshare.net/USArmySocialMedia/social-media-roundupgeotagging-safety.
To disable geotagging on most smart phones, check the general settings and look for a "location" tab and select the appropriate settings. A quick internet search will turn up step-by-step instructions for disabling these features for specific sites and devices.
Even with the privacy settings and geotagging features set, Bowser still recommends having someone else look at your page and your photos before posting to ensure they follow the guidelines set by the Army.
"Have someone take an honest look at your site to see if your settings are properly set," Bowser said. "Look for anything that might make you the target of an adversary."
More information about social media safety for Soldiers, civilians and Families can be found online at www.army.mil/socialmedia/soldiers/.
(Editor's note: Information for this article was compiled from various Army sources.)