It’s Time to Police Up Your Social Media

No matter your military occupation, clearance, or rank, it’s now more important than ever that you clean up your social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and, yes, even Tinder. The Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook showed the public just how vulnerable your data. More importantly, it revealed that even if you’ve been following all the OPSEC memos and guidelines to the letter, Aunt Marge could still make your data vulnerable.

There’s a reason that OSINT, or Open Source Intelligence, is categorized alongside other types of intelligence such as HUMINT (Human Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signals Intelligence): why risk a spy or a listening device when you can just Google the information you’re after? An example of how powerful social-media derived OSINT can be is from the MH17 flight that was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. There was a lot of confusion on who to blame in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Russia blamed the Ukrainian military, Ukraine blamed Russia, Russia denied it was even in the country; par for the course with Russia lately. That confusion vanished when an independent investigation organization used geotagged Twitter posts to narrow down the exact truck that downed the plane four years ago.

Your phone’s GPS is usually the worst offender, and if you took only one piece of advice from this article, it should be to disable GPS except when it is absolutely necessary. If you weren’t aware, Google Maps has a feature called timeline that has a, you guessed it, a timeline of everywhere you’ve ever used the service. It’s only available to you-you can’t go look up someone else’s timeline – but how often do you install an app that asks for GPS privileges? Any app could do exactly what Google’s timeline does except without the privacy guarantee. The running-app Strava scandal comes to mind. Internet users were able to map out military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq using data recorded by the running app.

If that weren’t enough of a problem, now we’re finding out that Facebook apps have been mapping out profiles of nonusers; gaps where people are expected to be. The root of the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that a private app harvested data from friends of people who downloaded quiz apps. Facebook and Twitter have admittedly very strict privacy measures. Recent events show that they aren’t infallible privacy measures.

If you haven’t taken the time to do a recent sweep of all your social media accounts, now is the time to do it. Look up your accounts on a website like https://haveibeenpwned.com/ to see data breaches that have affected your accounts. If you find any damage, it’s time to make some new passwords. Go through all your friends, contacts, and followers. If you don’t know who they are, remove or block them. Open your phone’s app library and delete anything that uses GPS without a good reason. It’s not your fault that your information is out there, but if you wear a uniform,
it’s your responsibility to square your information away.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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