Saturday, March 6, 2010
08. common damn sense: social networks
seems to make sense, right? i shouldn't have to give anyone this sort of tip!
wrong. seems that this mode of thinking doesn't get through to everyone. yesterday it was reported worldwide that an israeli soldier posted information about an upcoming raid operation as his status on facebook. now understand by "information" i don't just mean something like "gone raidin brb" or anything of that sort. his status update and other uploaded info included specifics about his unit, location, timing, and objectives:
"on wednesday we clean up qatanah, and on thursday, god willing, we come home"
why? why would he do that?
luckily for them, other members of the unit - slash - facebook friends saw the potential fallout of his howling error in judgement, and reported the posted information to the appropriate authorities. eventually hearing the reports, those in command made the decision not to go forward with the raid, since the information made public could potentially fall into the wrong hands and endanger the unit. according to the israeli military,
"uploading classified information to social networks or any website exposes the information to anyone who wishes to view it, including foreign and hostile intelligence services." and additionally, "hostile intelligence agents scan the internet with an eye toward collecting information on the IDF (israel defence forces), which may undermine operational success and imperil IDF forces"
whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? does this thought need to be delivered via official statement? i'm glad they shared this magical information, i might have never known otherwise.
needless to say, the hapless soldier was punished for his online faux pas. 10 days in prison, removal from combat duty, oh right, and the court martial. and one can only assume a fair number of buddies immediately de-friending his stupid ass.
unfortunately, this isn't an isolated event. leaks of sensitive information through the internet, particularly social networking sites, happen in other countries as well, and probably far more than what's actually reported. a couple months ago the UK ministry of defence, when questioned, admitted to 16 security leaks over a year and a half period via twitter and facebook, and has record that 10 employees had to be disciplined for it by the top brass. hell, the head of the british SIS's wife posted family vacation photos revealing names and places!
it's not like the internet's new. people that are 30 or younger have grown up familiar with computers for a significant portion of their lives, and what can happen on the web shouldn't surprise anyone - especially on social networking sites. remember when you were a kid and your parents told you not to talk to strangers? well the internet is a horrible cesspool full of them and the rule generally still applies. that should be cause for some concern since social networking sites like facebook and twitter are probably a more popular method of communication these days over phone calls. how many of you know someone who had a picture get out that they wanted private? or did it happen to you? maybe we should have awareness programs to illustrate this point?
in fact, that's a great idea! in israel, as in other some other military operations, there are now actually programs being put in place to raise awareness among personnel about the potential security threats posting any information can cause. at israeli bases, it's posters featuring a "friend request" from mahmoud ahmedinejad, with text across the bottom saying "think everyone's your friend?" to try to drive the point home that true privacy on social networks is an illusion. instead of the visual approach, the UK ministry of defence issued a 13 page document entitled "online engagement guidelines" establishing the most comprehensive guidelines i've ever seen for an "online presence."
all of this could have been prevented - just by applying some common damn sense. i sure hope the pentagon's plan for social media and web 2.0 works out a little better.
moral of the story - unless you actually set privacy settings - on anything - you're fairly easily tracked by anyone who cares enough to try. or even worse, some stranger might have accessed that picture/video of you after your 5th tequila shot on cinco de mayo that you should have set as "friends only"...
and some twisted memory your brain blocked out for your own good (and/or self respect) might just be the next big internet meme to hit youtube.