Commentary

May 10, 2012

Critical Days of Social Media: Safety tips for the virtual world

Commentary by Maj. Gabe Johnson
162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

It was Saturday during a recent unit training assembly when our firefighters extinguished a blaze at the GE Apparatus Service center across the street from our main gate on Valencia Road – by Sunday an unknown unit member had posted cell phone video footage of the fire on You Tube for all to see.

Our guys saved the building and thankfully no one was hurt. The video was basically harmless. In fact it was pretty exciting, but it made me ask, “What if this was a full-scale crisis. Do people on base know the dangers of posting information during an emergency?”

For that matter, do members know how to protect the wing and themselves on a daily basis when they are online releasing information about base operations or their personal lives?

The Air Force and Air Guard, like all services, embrace social media because it is a powerful tool for Airmen to responsibly tell their story through ‘unofficial’ posts. You make the mission happen – who better than you to present the facts about what you do and tell people about the great work the unit does in defending our nation and state?

The key word here is ‘responsibly.’ In a crisis involving the wing – an aircraft incident, suspicious package, active shooter, elevated force protection condition, or any number of emergencies – wing members should not post any information about the event or the wing’s response.

If you speculate online about any volatile situation on base, you open the doors to rumors, false reporting, undue stress and panic among community members, and you may be creating a vulnerability that would place our first responders in unnecessary danger. In any situation like this, simply tell your family or friends that you are safe and that base public affairs will release information as it becomes available.

Additionally, during normal operations, posting photos or videos taken in restricted areas like the flight line, and internal documents or information that the unit has not officially released to the public is prohibited, including memos, e-mails, meeting notes, message traffic, white papers, pre-decisional materials, investigatory information and proprietary information.

Don’t post private information about yourself or others. Guard members should not release personal identifiable information, such as social security numbers, phone numbers, home addresses or driver’s license numbers that could be used to distinguish their individual identity or that of another Guardsman.

By piecing together information provided on different Websites, criminals can use information to impersonate Guard members and steal passwords. And never post on line when you plan to be out of town. That’s just invitation to burglars.

Hopefully, everyone on base who engages in social media periodically verifies their privacy settings. However, even if you’ve limited the people who can see your Facebook page to just your friends, you should operate under the assumption that things you post can be viewed or stolen by anyone.

Since that is the cold reality of the internet, carefully consider what you are posting before you post it. When you took the oath, you became a representative of the U.S. Air Force, so ask yourself, “Does this reflect credit or discredit on myself… on the Air Guard… on the 162nd?”

If after considering operations security, personal security, and the Air Force Core Values you still have questions about the appropriateness of your social media interactions, talk to your supervisor or call the public affairs office at 295-6192.

In the meantime, seize this moment to beef up your security and privacy options wherever you engage in social media.

There are resources located on the 162nd Fighter Wing’s official Website under Social Media Guidelines. Check in with this page from time to time to learn about the dangers of ‘geotagging,’ learn the latest online safety tips and learn about the right ways to use social media so that when you ask yourself whether to post, or not to post, you’ll know the right answer.




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(U.S. Air Force Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

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