Social media safety: Keeping yourself and loved ones safe online

Social Media Safety

Social media becomes more and more mainstream and common in our lives with each passing day. With the ease of utilizing mobile devices, staying connected via social media sites and apps has never been easier.

But, staying connected and using these tools has become so mainstream, that it’s necessary to remind ourselves of important precautions to keep our ‘social media footprint’ as safe and secure as possible.

Here are some important reminders and tips to consider when using social media:

Location sharing

With the holiday season upon us, traveling to see loved ones isn’t uncommon. However, even if you are going on vacation or taking a quick trip to see family for the holidays, be cognizant of sharing your location on social media tools.

Checking into airports as you travel and the use of geo-tagging on social media posts throughout your normal day are just two examples. Both of these things can alert others when you’ve left your home vacant or show patterns in your daily habits.

Geo-tagging and location sharing show up in security settings for various social media apps. When you hit the “accept” tab, make sure you know what you are accepting! To turn off any of these features, check out the help sections of individual apps for assistance.

Location sharing is also important to keep in mind for Coast Guard members. If you’re on a cutter and continually checking in to areas or making posts when you have service near land, you could be alerting others to the cutter’s location. Remember OPSEC!

Accepting friend requests

While many people routinely only accept friend requests from people they know and trust, it has become more and more routine to follow social media accounts of people we don’t know. If you’re going to allow someone to follow your account and what you post, make sure you either know and trust them, or are comfortable with what you are sharing to allow them access.

With the influx of professional networking sites, it becomes even easier to share personal details about your work life and allow people you may not know access to those details. Before you connect with anyone on one of these sites, you should always check out their profile for legitimacy before you allow them to see your personal details. Again, make sure you are only sharing things you are comfortable sharing with others!


Search for yourself

Even if you don’t share a lot of information on a regular basis, it’s always a good idea to check out what others could see. Use an online search engine to search your name, and see what pops up. Consider the things that come up and how it would appear to outsiders.

Tips for information safety

It is important to be extremely careful with sharing personal information about yourself, such as your birthday, hometown or age.

This information is regularly used as security question information to bank or other financial accounts, and as such, should not be shared with people you don’t trust. If one account gets hacked, it’s that much easier to get into other accounts as well.

Just as military bases change gate codes, you should consider changing your password on a regular basis. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters to make your passwords as secure as possible.

Be cognizant of photos you are sharing as well – many photos can contain metadata that is embedded within the photo that could give someone access to information such as where and when you took the photo. If you’re in the Coast Guard, know what you can and can’t release – remember that not everyone in the Coast Guard is authorized to release Coast Guard photos – even if you took them.

If you have questions about the imagery policy for the Coast Guard specifically, feel free to contact the Multimedia Division at Coast Guard Headquarters.

Know when to speak up

If you notice anything suspicious or unusual with your accounts, or receive any threats at any time, make sure you take the appropriate steps and report the incident immediately.

Threats should be reported to the Coast Guard’s Counterintelligence Service, in accordance with the Coast Guard Counterintelligence Program manual. Points of contact for this service are located in every Coast Guard area, district and sector and can be found on the Coast Guard Portal.

A duty agent at Coast Guard Headquarters can also be contacted via phone at 202-615-3327.

Any immediate concerns for a Coast Guard member’s safety or a need for federal law enforcement should be forwarded to the Coast Guard’s Investigative Service in accordance with the Coast Guard Investigative Service Roles and Responsibilities manual.

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