Letter: Social Media


When social media is discussed on this site, opsec always seems to take front seat. Entering details of your life and a network of your contacts into a database you don’t own is certainly cause for pause. I don’t have a social media account because I find them obnoxious. However, the letter regarding using social media for intel was spot on and, though Hugh stated that this was just one useful instance, I believe the writer of the letter indicated several, none of which could be effectively reproduced with the level of ham radio activity we have going on.

With social media I can instantly share a video of political importance with hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers. Future elections could be won or lost by mastery or failure to master these tools. You think the Arab spring could have been organized by ham radio operators? Not a chance.

Social media is like a gun. It is a tool with its own inherent dangers. Don’t fear it like Feinstein fears the AR15. Learn how it functions and point the muzzle away from you!

HJL Replies: I recognize that social media may have a place in some operations. However, it is not really comparing apples to apples. For example, your mailing address may be known to the FCC as a licensed Ham, but as part of the licensing agreement, you are expected to perform emergency communication. No one at the FCC bats an eye when they see that you are licensed. You are simply performing what you have agreed to perform. While the FCC may monitor the Ham frequencies, the NSA, CIA, and other alphabet organizations don’t care unless they are specifically targeting you. Suggestions to join an ARRL associated club are based around the idea that RF bandwidth is a precious resource that the FCC wants to auction to the highest bidder. The ARRL is the recognized political lobbying organization that keeps the FCC and congress from confiscating the resource in whole or in part. Social media, on the other hand, tends to be in a medium that is automatically recorded (the Internet) and is actively trolled by both law enforcement and criminals. The exposure on social media is far greater. My greatest concern with social media is not with myself, but with my children. Ham radio does not generally have a tendency to beguile and seduce information from children like social media does. You can have a conversation with a teenager about OPSEC and they can understand your concerns, but the persuasive power of their friends is strong and constant. Without even realizing it, they begin slipping information, unless they are very mature and completely understand the need for OPSEC.