Defence community warned of risks of social media

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new MOD education campaign is warning Service personnel and civilian staff of the importance of guarding personal information when using social media channels.

With the campaign comes new MOD guidance for personnel using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which warns users about the risks of releasing too much information about themselves or other operational details.

Called ‘Think Before You…’, the guidance will be incorporated into Phase 1 training, when applicants first join the Services, and into other mandated training materials for serving personnel.

The Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer, said:

Social media has enabled our personnel to stay in touch with their families and their friends no matter where they are in the world. We want our men and women to embrace the use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, but also want them to be aware of the risks that sharing too much information may pose. You don’t always know who else is watching in cyberspace.

The MOD Headquarters has its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter feeds and we see no reason to stop our personnel from tweeting or posting on their own walls. But the MOD has a responsibility to warn personnel of the risks they could be exposing themselves to, hence the launch of this new campaign.

‘Think Before You…’ is a reminder that personal and operational security should be a primary concern and that social media merely provides a different context where sensitive details can be found.

The Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer added:

We do not want to scare Service personnel, families and veterans and we certainly do not want them to stop using social media. We are not here to gag people because we acknowledge the ubiquity and significant benefits that social media offers to people and the MOD. I am a big fan of Facebook and Twitter and I use them on a regular basis. These channels are vital to communicating in a digital age.

Risks to Service personnel - and potentially their families - include posting details and locations of troop movements, operational events, locations and travel details of ships or aircraft, as well as people’s home addresses. If inadvertently released, information such as this could give the UK’s enemies the upper hand.