Social media:

Attention all Facebookers, Twitter tweeters and YouTubers: a new Defense Department policy authorizes access to  these and other Web 2.0 platforms from non-classified government computers, as long as it doesn’t compromise operational security or involve prohibited activities or Web sites.

Defense Department officials issued the long-awaited policy March 1, establishing consistent rules for all military members and employers.

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who signed the policy, said it strikes a critical balance between the benefits and potential vulnerabilities of these applications. “This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st-century Internet tools,” he said.

While authorizing access to these tools, the new policy also recognizes the importance of protecting military networks and operations, explained David M. Wennergren, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information management and technology.

For example, the new policy allows commanders to temporarily limit access as required to maintain operations security or address bandwidth constraints. It also prohibits malicious activity on military information networks and denies access to sites promoting prohibited activities such as gambling, pornography and hate crimes.

While information sharing may seem the polar opposite of security to some people, Wennergren said the Defense Department can no longer afford to consider just one or the other.

“If you look at either one individually, you will fail,” he said. “You will have great security, but no ability to access information sharing. [Or], if you think only about sharing, you will run into issues of operational security.”

The new policy promotes what Wennergren calls “secure information sharing,” providing the balance needed to tap into the capabilities social media networking offers, without compromising security.
“It is everyone’s responsibility in the department to make sure they are doing all that they can to protect our information and our information systems,” Wennergren said.  

“The world of Web 2.0 and the Internet provide these amazing opportunities to collaborate,” he continued.

It not only promotes information sharing across organizational boundaries and with mission partners, but also enables deployed troops to maintain contact with their loved ones at home.

“So, if you work on those two pieces” — access and security — “this really is giving people this avenue to do amazing things in terms of getting the information shared and making decisions happen much more rapidly,” Wennergren said.