connected but not compromised

The U.S. Navy announced a special social network targeted to service members on deployment.

Anyone reading this blog would probably agree that social media tools represent some of the best ways to stay connected when away from loved ones, whether it be through a blog post to broadcast to your family what you’re doing or a flickr upload of pictures from your latest adventures.

But these “travel-logues” for forward-deployed service members can just as easily be accessed by adversaries. That means information from these updates can be pieced together with other open-source intelligence to possibly hurt the very forces and causes these service members are protecting. It may seem as harmless as posting a pic, but what you’re really doing is broadcasting your unit’s exact location by showing the surroundings.

They used to say “loose lips sink ships.”

Today we have so many more lips moving in much more publicly broadcast ways that this can potentially be a real problem. My psychology colleague at UGA, Dr. Janet Frick, updated this concept a bit, keeping with the rhyming action:

Loose tweets sink fleets.

Cute, isn’t it?

But back to this social network the Navy announced.

The site offers families of deployed Sailors & Marines a personalized family Web site:

  • hosted in a safe & secure environment
  • includes 2 hours of streaming video
  • unlimited photo albums
  • interactive calendars and message boards
  • contact list which is really an address book (great for knowing who to send postcards to!)
  • used by more than 1,200 families now and is FREE for the family

Yep, acts much like a compilation of all the popular social networks out there.

Check out this sample demo site they have for the “Stuart Family.” Being a big fan of my own sister’s blog for her million kids in Kansas (wouldn’t you just love a link to that one!), I especially loved the little girl’s rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

As the release mentions, many of the social networking sites out there are blocked by military servers … so the Facebooks, MySpaces, YouTubes & Flickrs of the world are not an option for keeping in touch. With the restrictions on file sizes for e-mail, it is also hard to send good photos & nearly impossible to get video through.

This seems like a great service & I can tell you that nothing has a more positive impact than good communication with the homefront when deployed.

I’d be more interested to see their terms of service written in a less legal & more understandable way. Things that I’m not even sure about after reading their terms are whether the content uploaded is still owned by the families (not a company) & can also be posted on other sites by the family, whether there is a screening process to protect operational security, etc. One thing that does suck, which I found in the FAQ, is that the site apparetnly goes away for the family after 12 months. What happens to the family content, I’m not really sure.

But all in all, it seems like a great public-private collaboration helping keep families connected through deployments.

And heck, if you have a few bucks laying around, you might want to sponsor a family.

Disclosure for those who didn’t know: I am a commissioned Reserve public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy. Still, they don’t pay me enough to do their PR on my own time 🙂 I wrote this of my own will without influence.

2 Responses so far.

  1. tiffanyderville says:

    It’s wonderful to hear about this service.

    I was disappointed though that the content is only up for one year. Does the special encryption really cost so much that the content can only be up for a year? Can the content then be downloaded when it’s about to expire?

    And families or their sponsors need to pay $100 per year for the service? I don’t know anything about costs — from this uninformed vantage point, the expense leaves me feeling uneasy.

    I don’t know anything about the costs of security encryption. I don’t think the Internet space should be an issue. With all the free Web sites available (e.g., Google pages, Webnode), I would think that the military could devise a sustainable model.

    I hope someone “in the know” about the cost will set me straight on this issue by justifying the expense.

  2. kaye says:

    Tiffany … I too still have a lot of questions about this. But on some of yours regarding cost, from what I’ve seen on their site, it is sponsors who pay the $100. Families of deployed service members get free access once their status has been verified.

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