Family OPSEC: How Facebook and Social Media Can Hurt

Blogging is a wonderful way to share our military family experiences with the outside world. The same goes for using Twitter and status updates on Facebook and all the other ways we now can use social media to tell our own stories.

But do you have your own OPSEC social media plan for your family? All my military friends probably are nodding their heads saying of course we do. But here are a few items that probably were not mentioned at the last deployment briefing you went to.

Accepting Facebook friend requests from media

I worked in the media for 15 years before I married my wonderful husband who is a 20+ year veteran of the Air Force. So naturally I have loads of friends on Facebook who work in media. Most are close friends who would never use my status updates for a story without talking to me first. However, I’ve had two instances where reporters who “friended” me on Facebook and whom I had known professionally for close to a decade wrote entire articles based on my Facebook posts and it never even occurred to them to ask me if I was OK with that. Fortunately for our family both pieces were positive but imagine the potential damage if these had been negative stories?

Ever since then I have learned to use the custom privacy settings on my status updates when the update refers to a topic I only want to share with my military community friends. I do this to ensure that whatever conversation I may have with my friends stays private and doesn’t end up on some media blog or in the next day’s newspaper.

You may think a reporter or a producer will ask you permission to use your posts for publication. Some will ask but unfortunately not all will think it’s necessary. So some of your private thoughts meant for just friends and not for broadcast are at risk of becoming news material. Think how often we blow off steam online – and it’s just that, blowing off steam. But for someone who is not familiar with military life and is pressed for time to turn a story on deadline, your “rant” may become an easy quote too tempting to resist.

Posting birthdays and anniversary dates

The other day I was reading a friend’s just published blog post. It was beautifully written and featured photos of the family members. The photo captions included the new baby’s first, middle and last name along with the baby’s exact birthday. Another photo showcased the couple’s wedding with the exact anniversary. Such detailed information in a public blog post is like an open invitation for identity theft.

Having a public family tree

We love our families and the ability claim your mother, father, siblings, etc. on Facebook can seem like a harmless little feature. Just the other day I noticed a friend of mine who is new to Facebook and currently lives overseas had posted her full name including her maiden name to her account. She also proudly displayed all the full names of her children and her husband with their exact birth dates and also her mother’s details – including her mother’s maiden name. Again, probably not the type of details you want to be posting.

Know the social media rules that cover your military member

The rules regarding social media usage by members of the US military have relaxed a lot in the last few years. But it’s a good idea to know exactly what rules cover your spouse and model your family’s personal social media “policy” to accommodate those  rules. This was a great help for our family when I managed my husband’s popular deployment blog in 2009 and 2010 and used Facebook to update our families who live in five different time zones on two continents.

Here are two documents that can be helpful as you plan your personal social media OPSEC policy:

Sample blogging OPSEC rules

How to report about deployment

Here’s to safe military blogging, microblogging, tweeting, facebooking, and flickering, digging, stumbling, etc!


One Response

  1. My settings are so private, only my friends can see me page…all of them know I’m overseas and most are military as well…anywho, look up my name and you will see no pic and it will show male…

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