3 Super Easy PERSEC Mistakes


The Air Force trotted out a corny new slogan last month aimed at reminding all of us — spouses as well as service members — about the “fine line between letting your friends see what you’re up to and providing an adversary critical information about your connection to the military and its mission.”

Some of this stuff is a no-brainer. Of course a deployed service member shouldn’t be posting things like “headed out on patrol!” while deployed — and of course his spouse shouldn’t be posting that either.

The ideas of operational security (OPSEC) and personal security (PERSEC) are old news for most of us after almost 15 years of war. OPSEC is basically habit by now. But what about PERSEC?

Social media makes it so, so easy to feel safe and secure. Maybe you’ve already locked down your account. You only post personal information in secure groups that require approval to join. Your Instagram account is public, but you don’t tag your photos with your location.


You’re good, right?

Maybe not.

In my social media wanderings I’ve been noticing a few increasingly common PERSEC mistakes.

3 Easy PERSEC Mistakes

1. It feels secure, so you think it is secure. Many military bases have members-only Facebook groups that require approval before a new member can join. The administrators might look at someone who wants to join a group to see if they appear to be a military spouse or appear to be local — and then they approve them. But because there is an approval process, members feel like they can post personal information they may not put elsewhere — information like what school their child is attending, the fact that they are going to be out of town for a week, their specific neighborhood location and more. It would be so, so easy for someone to piece together personal information on a person by just watching their postings in that kind of group.

2. You’re just trying to let them know you care. Loose tweets hurt families. That slogan is not nearly as catchy, but it is true when it comes to hitting social media after you learn of the death of a service member. We’ve written about it before — well meaning friends and family (and even, in one case, a Navy PAO) head to social media to express their condolences. The problem? The family hasn’t been officially notified yet that there’s a reason for condolences at all.

Rule of thumb: stop and think — if there’s even a shadow of a doubt that a family hasn’t had the courtesy of being told by the military that their loved one has been injured or killed, keep it to yourself.

3. You don’t stop and think about every social media choice you make — including the ones made for you. I’m a triathlete. I use a Garmin watch and I sync it a social network where my friends can view my progress and I can view there’s. Only problem is that it also uploads my precise route. And since I often start training runs from my home, that means I’m uploading my home address. You better believe I have that whole thing locked down and make sure the only people who can view that data are people I actually know in real life.

The key to being smart about social media isn’t to simply not be on social media. I really do think that’s a bridge too far. I also don’t think changing your name on Facebook is necessary. But I do believe thinking through what you decide to send out onto the internet and when is important.


Do you have any rules you follow for using social media beyond the normal common sense stuff? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Meg

    Using devices that chart out your precise travel routes, or apps like Foursquare that post your whereabouts at any given time, just seems foolish. I also wonder if so many social media accounts (FB, twitter, instagram, fitbit, etc) are really necessary. And are you using unique and secure passwords for each of them? Even something as uncrackable as L0ngL0ngP@$$w0rd is vulnerable if you’re using it for all of your seventeen social media logins, and yes, you’re probably using it for amazon and apple and USAA as well.

    My own rule is not to post pictures from or even make mention of events or meetings with friends until at least several days after the fact, so that if either they or we are out of town we’ve had time to get home before I let people know we were away. Nor do I ever post pictures of other people’s children.

  • Guest

    I’ve found that a bigger threat is actually the in-laws. They love to post and send news about their service member so all of the relatives can see, and let’s face it, some people just need to feel like they’re special when they have unique information to share.

    • Meg

      You are so right!

  • guest

    Hope you don’t run marathons….99% post all of your public info online prior to the race. The husband stopped after finding his name in half a dozen databases.

    • jojo613

      Huh? Did not know that. Hubby and I run 3-4 races a year. Usually it’s just our name, age, city, and state.