The army has told soldiers that posting pictures on Facebook and other social media sites can put deployed troops at risk by revealing their location.
The warning was issued in a release put out earlier this week. The question was asked - "Is a badge on Foursquare worth your life?"
Foursquare is one of several social media apps that publishes the user's location and encourages people to frequently check-in and determine the location of the user. Frequent use of Foursquare can lead to users being awarded badges and discounts.
There are other apps that have similar abilities to trace the user's location. These include SCVNGR, Gowalla, Whrrl and Loopt. Locations of the users are published using the GPS functions that are found in the user's smartphone or other devices.
Steve Warren, deputy G2 for the Maneuver Center for Excellence, said that if a deployed soldier uploads a photograph taken on a smartphone with a GPS feature to Facebook, the exact location of his or her unit can become known. Warren said, Today in pretty much every single smartphone, there is a built-in GPS. For every picture you take with that phone, it will automatically embed the latitude and longitude within the photograph.
Warren also recounted an incident that occurred in 2007. A new fleet of helicopters arrived at a compound and some soldiers took pictures of the new choppers. Posting these pictures on the Internet allowed the enemy to determine the exact location where the helicopters were. A mortar attack was then launched against the compound and four of the helicopters were destroyed.
As reported by the BBC, the British army has banned the use of mobile phones in operational zones and like the U.S. army is now doing, has warned its troops of the dangers of the use of social media.
Daniel Sherman, of the Royal United Services Institute, said that anything of a personal nature, including family pictures, posted on the Internet could be used against a captured soldier.
The U.S. Army also warned the troops of the dangers of Facebook Timeline that will include a user's history and a map of all the user's posts. Following this information will enable patterns of the day to day lives of soldiers and their families to be ascertained. While this information will be limited to friends, Staff Sgt. Dale Sweetman said, A good rule of thumb where using location-based social networking applications is do not become friends with someone if you haven't met them in person. Make sure you're careful about who you let into your social media circle.
While geotagging poses unique risks to the military and their families, everyone who uses social media is in danger of revealing patterns to criminals.
Soldiers are asked to disable the geotagging feature on their phones and to check the security settings on their social networking sites to make sure only real friends have access to their information.