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January Chief's Concerns

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hartzog, with the 169th Communications Flight at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hartzog, with the 169th Communications Flight at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., poses for a photo on Jan. 9, 2013. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- In this article I would like to talk about the issue of privacy. Particularly how privacy, or lack thereof can affect the SCANG and its members. The definition of privacy according to Wikipedia is: "the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively."

In other words, it's your private information and you should be the one to decide when and who you entrust this information to. As military members we are taught "one team, one fight". It is easy to assume that our information is safe or that nobody would do any wrong with it. In a perfect world I would agree with you, but the reality is that there are people out there that look for ways to exploit your personal information for their own monetary gain. Some common ways unscrupulous people get your private personal information is physical insecurity, social media and smartphones.

One area that SCANG members are the most directly susceptible is physical insecurity of PII or Personally Identifiable Information. How often do you see a copy of someone's orders lying on a table or a printer? Another way is the ever-popular PII laden spreadsheet saved on the share drive with no folder access restrictions. As a member of the Communications Flight, I take no pride in telling you this happens all too often.  Each SCANG member needs to learn from the onset to treat PII the same way they would money, because that's what it is to people that seek to use it wrongly. You wouldn't leave money lying on a break room table would you?

Another possible source of personal information about you is on social media. I have my own opinions on the compatibility of social media and the military but that's for another article. The military has traditionally struggled with OPSEC; social media only exacerbates the problem. How many of you have seen a post about a departure time or a destination for a deployment? I have seen lots of pictures from SCANG deployment locations pop up on Facebook. Someone seeking to do you harm could easily deduce your house and family are unprotected. Speaking of unprotected...how many of you have read the terms and conditions clause on Facebook? It's really scary to look at how deep they go into everything you do. They data mine information from every post, picture and app you use. By clicking on "I Agree" you consent to them using your all your information. You are also allowing Facebook to track everything you surf on the web while you are logged into Facebook. Most people have social media running in the background on their smart phones all the time; so everything you're doing could be tracked including your GPS location. This leads me to my next topic concerning smartphones.

Smartphones, they seem like harmless little productivity enhancing toys that are only here to help us. The truth is, smartphones can be loaded with information about you and you can bet someone is willing to pay for it. Many people actively use them in every facet of their lives. They do their banking, scheduling, save all their passwords, contacts, birthdays and social security numbers on them, everything a criminal needs to steal an identity. The moral of the story is, if you're going to live vicariously through your smartphone, please make sure you lock down your privacy settings and make double sure you have a strong password lock on the device.

In this day and age where all your personal information is for sale, you really need to think about how you handle personal information and what you are signing up for when you click the "I Agree" button. Big Brother is always watching.