Technology & Science

Military staff ordered to clear online activity with superiors

Canada's top soldier has ordered military personnel to obtain authorization from their superiors before putting any information online.

Canada's top soldier has ordered military personnel to obtain authorization from their superiors before putting any information online.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier fears that troops may be revealing sensitive details of military operations through their internet activities, potentially jeopardizing missions as well as the lives of personnel or their families.

"[Canadian Forces] members are to consult with their chain of command before publishing [Canadian Forces]-related information and imagery to the internet, regardless of how innocuous the information may seem," Hillier's order reads.

The order applies to blogs and other personal websites, digital photo and video sharing sites, and even e-mails.

While the order does not specifically mention other forms of online communication such as instant messaging or online live chat forums, it does state that Canadian Forces members "have a responsibility to ensure that any information or imagery they share with a third party who may not share [Canadian Forces] operational security concerns is not of such a nature that it could create risks if published."

'Long time in the making'

"This is something that the military has had to deal with since 2002," when Canada sent troops to Afghanistan, Lieut. Adam Thomson, an Armed Forces spokesman, told CBC News Online.

He noted the policy has "been a long time in the making.

"We realized that blogs are more influential than we knew," he said.

The general order, which was posted to an Armed Forces internet discussion forum, was not based on any specific incident, Thomson added. He confirmed that the full text was posted to the online message board.

"Operational security is paramount," the Canadian Forces general order says.

"It is incumbent upon all[Canadian Forces]members to consider the potential for creating risk to themselves, their families, their peers and the mission by publishing information to the internet.

"Such information or imagery may, either individually or in conjunction with other information, provide expert analysts insight into [Canadian Forces] current operations, equipment, capabilities, tactics and intentions, or may provide information that puts personnel in specialist roles or their families at risk."

The order states it is "intended to ensure [Canadian Forces]members, the chain of command and specialist advisors at all levels are aware of the risks inherent in making some types of information or imagery available to the wide audience using the internet, and of the measures to be taken to prevent such risks."

"This is not meant to reduce [Canadian Forces personnel's] access to the internet or ability to stay in touch with family and friends," Thomson said, echoing a line in the order.

However, the order also states that the chain of command, particularly in a theatre of operations, "has the authority to restrict access to the internet if it is deemed essential to maintaining operational security."