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Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell Facebook

The military is trying to devise policies to govern how our service people use social networking sites, according to a story by Julian Barnes in the LA Times. The article implies the Pentagon accepts that military folks are going to use these sites, and there may even be some good that will come from it, but the military is concerned about security. At the moment, the Marines have banned accessing Facebook, MySpace and Twitter from government computers, to make sure there’s bandwidth for more pressing military needs.

Not that anyone asked, but it seems to me that the military would do best by treating social networking sites simply as another place service people will be gathering, just like in coffee shops, living rooms, and bars, and should therefore be training them in the use of social networking sites, with clear penalties for violating security guidelines. Which may be exactly what the military policy is heading toward.

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2 Responses to “Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell Facebook”

  1. It is surprisingly easy to gather information about ship movements by connecting the names of sailors to the names of their ships (that is often mentioned in hometown newspapers and the like) and then watching what sailors say about their travels on social networking sites. The difference between Facebook and a coffee shop is that anyone who overhears a sailor in a coffee shop already knows where he is! So we’ve got a combination of action-at-a-distance and the potentially very high value of small bits of information. I can see why they are worried.

  2. Harry makes a good point about connecting the dots. There’s also a real issue with security of Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, David. There are ways to retain the tools behind the firewall without providing a vector for hostile forces to access a secure military network.

    My sense here is that the active military is a different beast when it comes to operational security and social media. It makes sense for government agencies or leaders to be on public Web 2.0 platforms. I’m less sure about the service members themselves; private networks are another matter entirely. That said, you’re more informed about where policy may be heading and why, since you’ve been involved in forming it!

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