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Social Media and OPSEC

With more than 70 percent of online adults using Facebook and nearly 90 percent of 18 to 29 year olds using social media, it would be easy to say most communication occurs online. While social media use can be entertaining and informative, its use poses potential operations security weaknesses and Air Force Instructions provide guidance on appropriate social media use. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

With more than 70 percent of online adults using Facebook and nearly 90 percent of 18 to 29 year olds using social media, it would be easy to say most communication occurs online. While social media use can be entertaining and informative, its use poses potential operations security weaknesses and Air Force Instructions provide guidance on appropriate social media use. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

AF Social Media Guide

AF Social Media Guide

FRESNO AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Calif. -- Social media and the Internet, in general, offer Airmen and their families the ability to communicate while separated or deployed, but caution must be taken to maintain operational security.

The greatest threat to OPSEC on social media comes from an adversary's ability to collect information. Over time, those seemingly trivial bits of information can be complied to identify the location of military personnel, troop movements, military activities, and military objectives.

Service members should discuss OPSEC precautions with family members and friends. Departure and arrival dates should never be posted on social media websites. Specific locations and the numbers of military personnel that are deploying should also not be posted.

Some information related to military missions and objectives may be shared after it has been published for the American public through official military channels.

Military service members should periodically review their privacy settings on all their social media accounts. They are encouraged to set them to the maximum levels and to limit sharing to only individuals that they know personally. It is not recommended to share addresses or phone numbers on social media, but if they are shared, the general public should not be able to view them.

When taking photographs or video at a deployed location, GPS settings and geo-tagging must be turned off. By default most smart phones automatically have these features enabled, so individuals must go into their settings and disable them. Airmen must also be aware of what can be seen in the background of photographs. They must not inadvertently share classified or sensitive information. They must also be aware that the backgrounds of photographs can be used to identify locations, too. The same goes for video and background noise on audio.

Even when a person's security settings on his or her social media accounts are set to private, there is still no guarantee that hackers or administrators of the websites will not access classified or sensitive information. High profile individuals are the most at risk.

OPSEC is critically important, but keep things in perspective when assessing risks. In a commentary published on www.af.mil, "Online vigilance helps reduce risk," Master Sgt. Sonny Cohrs of the 23rd Wing Public Affairs Office says it best, "Will 'checking in' at your favorite restaurant make you a target for so-called "lone wolves" supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? Possibly. Will posting the dates of your weeklong family vacation make you a target for criminals to break into your house and rob you? That's more likely, so be smart about what you share online."

Cohrs goes on to offer a quote from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Fundamentally, public opinion wins wars."

It is important for the general public to see Airmen completing their mission with pride and expertise. The Air Force encourages Airmen to tell the Air Force story using social media and other means, but everyone must be cognizant to not compromise OPSEC.

Service members, their friends and family members should be encouraged to review the Military Community and Family Policy Social Media Guide and the Air Force Social Media Guide for more detailed information related to OPSEC and social media guidelines.

Related Links:

Air Force Social Media Guide

Military Community and Family Policy Social Media Guide

"Online Vigilance Helps Reduce Risk" by Master Sgt. Sonny Cohrs

"Safeguarding Your Digital Footprint" by Tech. Sgt. Grever