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Why a DOD ban on social media makes sense (and why it doesn’t)

FCW readers are evenly split — and passionately so — about the prospects of a Defense Department ban on social media.

To some readers, it’s a “no duh” decision. DOD, an anonymous reader writes, “is not a social experiment.”

Other readers acknowledge the security risks associated with social media, but say such risks can and should be addressed. Further, a ban comes with risks of its own.

“If [the social-media applications] are blocked, we potentially face losing good employees and soldiers/marines/airmen/sailors, but will be completely unprepared for future technology,” writes Phil.

For more background, check out the following stories:

DOD may ban Twitter, Facebook, other social media
Marines: Facebook is not for the few good men

Meanwhile, here are some of the comments we received against the ban ...:

  • What is really missing is a set of tools and services that can be deployed behind firewalls. They may still end up with some security problems, but at least if they are controlled from within, it's much easier to shut down until the problems are resolved.
    -- Aaron Helton
  • Banning the sites with no access (via a kisok, separate network, etc.) suggests that there is no one in all of DOD who has a working solution that provides access and maintains security. This is simply not true and is embarrassing for someone who served his country. Let's address the issue and move away from silly blanket policies.
    -- benbree
  • [Banning social media] immediately creates a community of users who are trying to circumvent the denial, crippling security attempts even more! The computers and networks exist to provide functions. Shutting down those functions because "something bad might happen" is cowardly, stupid and lazy.
    -- Arty Wright
  • One concern I see is that when you ban this option for the Defense Department, which I can understand to some extent, you also close the door for the use in areas were they are greatly needed or will be in the future. [That includes] communications with veterans for the VA and Veterans Resource Centers as this is the mode of communication now being used to share news, information and concerns with our veterans and those on active duty.
    -- James
  • We restrict our knowledge considerably with restrictions for safety and security reasons. Why not provide guidance and training to the troops as opposed to treating them as individuals who cannot make a decision for the good of their country. They are willing to die for it, can't they censor themselves in terms of the types of information they will discuss or put out on a social-network site? The cost of policing our own is not only financial but creating sheeps instead of eagles.
    -- MRG
  • I can understand some of the hard and soft security vulnerabilities that come up, but not the problem of information exposure. That is an issue of social engineering and can happen off-site just as readily as on the NIPRnet. Just because I'm not at work doesn't mean I can't log on and put compromising information on Facebook or another site. Proper education on IA and INFOSEC would be a better route to go.
    -- Paul

... And here are some of the comments we received in favor of the ban:

  • Genuinely personal use of Facebook is one thing. However, official government use of Facebook, et. al, is not technically a Constitutional function, by any stretch of the imagination, and therefore is unconstitutional.
    -- Jane Smith
  • There's no need for Twitter or Facebook within the DOD. Unless someone can cite specific reasons why either of these two [social-networking sites] improve national security, then they have no place on DOD networks.
    -- DOD-Detroit
  • I am a veteran now and used to communicate through MySpace. I have gotten hacked twice, once from a link I got on Facebook (got the Koobface worm) and another from MySpace (a fake XP Antivirus). I am [in] agreement with the ban, I am now very reluctant of using these "new way of communication" tools. The old fashioned way (e-mail and instant messaging) are sufficient. We always want everything right there in then and this is the same way hackers want this too.
    -- Ramon
  • This comes not too long after us Information Assurance people were told to grant access to these sites. Of course we thought it was a huge mistake to begin with. Additionally user attitudes really need to be changed in that many don’t seem to understand the damage that can be caused by negligent behavior when it comes to data security.
    -- Anonymous
  • Why has it taken so long for someone, finally, in DOD to understand that the social-media sites and tools are a huge security issue! A site like MySpace for recruiting may have potential, as long as the information coming in is filtered before it reaches a government network. But if the DOD wants to bring social-networking tools into the agency, do so with foresight and exacting requirements. Try putting a kiosk in an agency's public affairs office and establish criteria on who and how it would be utilized.
    -- DLA Columbus
  • Bravo Zulo to the Marines for taking a very necessary stand and have set the standard for responsibility. The DOD is not a social experiment.
    -- Anonymous
  • Bravo!!! Finally, somebody in the Government has the intestinal fortitude to slow down this fast moving, out-of-control train wreck that Vivek Kundra and gang has floored the accelerator on. I loudly applaud the Marine Corps for trying to bring some sanity into the discussion, instead of continuing to blindly charge forward with our eyes closed.
    -- FedSecurityGuy

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Aug 05, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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