Social media enables users to engage in conversations, interact with followers and develop relationships. But to what extent should those who do sensitive jobs such as the military, police, and intelligence agencies use social media? As I write this, Kenya Armed forces are engaged in a battle to wipe out Alshabaab in Somalia. The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) through its spokesman @MajorEChirchir is regularly giving updates on the progress of the war. It is very possible and there is evidence to suggest that some armed officers are actively using Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr while on the battlefield. Questions are now being asked on how these officers are likely to compromise security operations, their lives and those around them. What are the risks associated with the use of social media by armed forces in the battle field?
My proposition is that Kenya Defence Force should encourage military officers to use social media but set rules and guidelines that clearly state what, where, how and when social media should be used or not used. The United States Army in January this year officially released the 2011 Army Social Media Handbook, a document that stipulates social media guidelines for soldiers, personnel and families alike. But here in Kenya, nothing of that sort is known to exist.
Armed forces and those who do similar jobs can use social media in a beneficial way without compromising their security if they are offered help and guidance on how to use these tools.
I have stipulated here some security measures that officers can adhere to while using social media:
- Whom do you accept as a friend on Facebook or follower on Twitter? Do you know him / her? He / she could be an enemy or a spy? – Your account may be hacked.
- How sensitive are the photos / videos that you upload on Facebook, YouTube or Flickr?
- What information do you share with followers and friends on Facebook and Twitter? Remember without protecting your tweets, anyone can follow you on twitter and read everything in your time-line.
- On your Facebook page Set privacy setting options to “friends only”, so that your profile is not visible by everyone.
- Avoid checking-in on foursquare while on sensitive locations. It reveals your location thereby putting your life and that of others at risk?
- Avoid revealing schedule information on where you are heading or events you intend to have.
- Avoid uploading content that is illegal or prohibited for public viewing – military sites, arms, etc?
- Avoid venting your frustrations or ranting online? Your enemy may pick that against you.
- Ensure that information posted online has no significant value to the enemy. Always assume that the enemy is reading every post you make to a social media platform.
- Be cautious when revealing or stating your job, military base, education and contact information in your profile.
- Enforce strong password usage throughout on all your Social media channels. Remember that your account can be hacked. A mixture of numeric, alphanumeric, upper / lower cases in your passwords can make that difficult.
Kenya military should produce a handbook Manual – a document that provides guidance, case studies and advanced tips and best practices for solders and their families.
Let me know your thoughts.
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