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Don’t check in while deployed: duh

November 22, 2010

The Associated Press reported last week of an Air Force internal warning about the use of geolocation tools such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, and the dangers of using such sites while on active duty. All I have to say is that it must have been a slow news day at the AP. I’m all about the traditional media covering military use of social media, or in cases like this amplifying an internal message to a broader audience, but when it comes to any reminder to be smart about social media use, and especially the use of new capabilities like geolocation, it should be a common occurence across the military branches.

As other coverage of the Air Force’s concern has indicated, this isn’t the first cause for concern about social media while deployed – members of congress got in trouble for tweeting their location overseas, and the State Department has encountered its own problems with security and social media tools. 

When the Department of Defense released its policy on social media last February, calling for opening access to networks, it did so with the understanding that an open policy places an increased obligation on each of the branches to better educate service members about the dos and don’ts of interacting online. Just because DoD sees more benefits than risks from open access doesn’t mean it doesn’t recognize the consequences of failing to maintain security and discipline online. I’m all for issuing our service members reminders to play it safe online wherever we think we’ll find them – whether it’s on their internal networks or via public outreach.

I’ve always considered the best way to educate our Soldiers on social media is to educate their leaders. Most young Soldiers understand the tools and with leadership who create the appropriate frameworks for safe engagement, the military is well on its way to successfully empowering every level to use social media safely. The Army is ahead of the game in this area, having instituted social media training for both battalion and brigade level commanders as well as general officer training. I was pleased to help institute those programs and only hope that training expands, harnessing the information via an online training platform.

Any time our military gets recognition for social media that’s a good thing. But when it comes to the Air Force issuing reminders about not “checking in” from Afghanistan the news should be who isn’t taking the time to do this, not who is.

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