French Law Enforcement Officers Told to “Erase Social Media Presence”

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in France, CNN is reporting that French law enforcement officers have been told to erase their social media presence and to carry weapons at all times. The article says that these instructions were given because “terror sleeper cells” have been activated, thus implying that the suggested actions are related to a threat to law enforcement.

Given the threats made by one of the suspects who are now dead, the suggestion to carry weapons seems logical enough. However, I believe there are at least three possible reasons why law enforcement officers may have been warned to erase their social media presence: 1) As a mere precaution 2) There was a genuine, imminent threat that required locking down their social media presence even more 3) At least some people were irresponsible with how much information they shared; possibly to the point that it would put them in some danger even without the current threat, if any.

It is common knowledge that the over-sharing of information on social media can threaten our well-being in real life. In 2010, a site called “Please Rob Me” demonstrated this by posting a list of empty homes. The site operated under the assumption that if someone checked in to a location other than their home on social networks like Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and Buzz, then they were at that location rather than home, thus allowing “friends” and other people to burglarize their home. The site was criticized by some as being irresponsible, while the founders claimed they were simply raising awareness of the dangers of sharing one’s geographical location.

Clearly, you don’t have to be a member of law enforcement to be targeted by miscreants, though if such a warning was given, the threat here might be more serious than the threat to the average citizen or even to a law enforcement officer under normal circumstances. At the moment, we don’t seem to have enough information to determine whether the warning was given as a precaution, in response to some imminent threat, to curb irresponsibility, or for some other reason. Regardless of who we are, however, this incident reminds us all that we should not be sharing so much information that merely having a social media presence presents a threat to our physical well-being.

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