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Last week, the United States Army announced the release of its 2011 Social Media Handbook on its blog, Army Live. The handbook warns troops to think twice before divulging information on Facebook or Twitter that could be exploited by adversaries.
Last year the US Army released the 2010 Social Media Book, which the blog post refers to as “an excellent product”.
However the post further explains that “it only scratched the surface of Army social media use. We decided it was time to produce a document that provided more guidance, additional case studies and more advanced tips and best practices.”
The guide comes a year after the Pentagon announced a new policy that officially opened the door to social media tools popular with a younger generation of soldiers.The guide encourages the use of social media but asks troops to exercise common sense and some restraint when it comes to posting on Facebook or Twitter.
“Our adversaries are trolling social networks, blogs and forums, trying to find sensitive information they can use about our military goals and objectives,” Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston wrote in the handbook.
“Therefore, it is imperative that all soldiers and family members understand the importance of practicing good operations security measures.”
According to the guide, troops and their relatives should avoid mentioning ranks, a unit’s location, deployment dates and the type of equipment used. It urges soldiers not to explicitly state things like “my family is back in Edwardsville, IL” which could be “dangerous” but rather be vague, broadly stating “I’m from the Midwest” instead.
The handbook also gives security tips such as turning off geo-tagging applications on smartphones or social media sites, including Facebook and Gowalla, setting privacy setting options to “friends only”, reviewing photos and videos before they’re posted online to make sure they don’t give away “sensitive” information.
In November, the US Air Force warned service members that using location applications could have “devastating” consequences for military operations.
The guide expects senior officers to take part in the online sites favoured by their troops, following the example of a number of high-profile commanders. The military’s top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, frequently posts on Twitter and Facebook, calling attention to his speeches or testimony before Congress.
However, the guide also advises officers to keep in mind that their work relationships online should not differ from how they treat lower-ranking troops offline.
“How they connect and interact with their subordinates online is up to their discretion, but it is advised that the online relationship function in the same manner as the professional relationship,” it said.