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Commentary Search

September Chief's Perspective

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. John Quattlebaum
  • 169th Operation Support Squadron

Recently there has been a lot more talk about mobile devices and the threat related to using location-based services on these devices. The evolving market of devices and apps on these devices that use this technology to store and track the simplest of things, like a person’s workout, presents a risk to DoD personnel around the globe. Recently while deployed, the Department of Defense released a policy prohibiting the use of geolocation features on government and non-government devices in certain Areas of Operations. This guidance gave DoD entities latitude to assess the threats and define local usage procedures while taking into account the risks to operational security.

In a recent article reported by ABC News, on August 6 of this year, a young man in Australia was able to find the locations of U.S. Soldiers inside of Syria. One picture in this article used fitness tracking devices to clearly identify Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, down to all the major roads inside the installation and around the perimeter of the field, pretty alarming when you think about it. The article also described how this kind of technology can be used to track activities on military installations. A person with ill intent and a unique skill set can gather this information over time to show patterns. DoD personnel can expect further guidance as warranted and additions to training highlighting the inherent risks associated with using devices and applications that use this technology.

On a personal level, how well do you know the friends of friends of friends that are seeing your posts on Facebook? If you post a simple text of what’s on sale at the mall or tag your location to let friends see something interesting you are visiting on vacation, how sure are you that you are not letting people know that your house is empty? How aware are you of the background in your latest selfie that you just posted with the time stamp, which may just give the clues to your location? One thing is for sure, as the ability to connect with others continually evolves so does the ability for people to exploit the information being shared.

To help keep this type of information as safe as possible, here are a few helpful tips on how to do this from the experts at McAfee:

  • Turn off the GPS function on your camera or digital camera, especially if you are planning on sharing the images.
  • Revisit your privacy settings, make sure you know who you are sharing with.
  • Be aware of the fact that what you are posting on one site may be linked to several other sites.
  • Be aware of when you are posting something. Maybe post at a later time than right after the picture was taken.