In a very 21st-century spin on the old World War II adage "loose lips might sink ships," an Associated Press report Wednesday claims that the U.S. Air Force is concerned about troops' use of geolocation services like Foursquare and Facebook Places and the possibility that it could reveal the location of U.S. forces in war zones.
Military authorities in the U.S. and other countries have already made warnings about social networking in general, claiming that it's all too easy for sensitive information to be exposed inadvertently. The Department of Defense had been considering banning the use of social media entirely (the Marines actually did impose a ban) but retreated from this strategy when the agency assessed that social media can provide valuable information-gathering and communication tools. In most cases, however, they're required to obtain consent from authorities before using the likes of Facebook or Twitter for personal rather than official reasons, with the same security reasons taken into account.
This sort of concern bubbles up to higher planes, too: a congressman blew his cover on a "secret" trip to Iraq last year when he tweeted about it.
On the civilian level, similar concerns about geolocation services have been raised through applications like Please Rob Me, which aggregates check-ins from Foursquare that have been sent to Twitter as public tweets, suggesting that those Foursquare users are effectively broadcasting to potential burglars that if they're checking in at bars or shopping malls, they aren't at home and their houses are ripe for robbing. Geolocation services like Foursquare have responded to this sort of thing by saying that they provide more-than-ample privacy and security settings and that if a user opts to make a check-in public rather than restricted to a group of trusted friends, that user is at his or her own risk.
The Associated Press report Wednesday said that the Air Force posted a "warning issued on its internal Web site this month" to alert troops to the potential risks of geolocation services, informing them that there may be "devastating implications for operations security and privacy" if soldiers' locations are easily pinpointed on a map.