ISIS Selfies Demonstrate the Connection Between Social Media and Business Situational Awareness

What is Situational Awareness?

A Navy SEAL describes situational awareness in this way: “[i]n military-speak, situational awareness is defined as the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regard to a mission. More simply, it’s being aware of what is going on around you.” (SEAL Training Tips: Mental Preparation)

Situational awareness requires that you pay attention to the obvious but, of equal importance, that you pay attention to the subtle things around you. There is no better context to discuss this in than the world of the “selfie” — that is, a photograph that one takes of oneself — because the whole point of a selfie is that it is all about you, only you, and nothing else. It is the ultimate narcissistic action because the selfie-taker is broadcasting to the world that “it’s all about me.”

What does ISIS have to do with this?

Remember, “it’s all about me,” that is what the members of ISIS must have been thinking when they were recently taking selfies which they then broadcast all over social media. Indeed, they were so focused in on themselves — and how important they were and how the pictures were all about them — that they forgot to even consider the world around them. Literally.

Not good for ISIS. Why?

When they were taking their selfies, they were doing so from their “top secret” training camp and also included in their pictures were identifiable geographical features and landmarks that pinpointed exactly where this training camp was located in the Ninawa Province of Iraq. Take a look at a few of the images and you can see for yourself.

ISIS is going to feel the consequences of this lapse in judgment. You can read more about ISIS’ grand mistake here: ISIS Outsmarted: Exposing Top Secret Location Through Selfies

The real question is whether you and your business will also learn about the consequences of not having situational awareness when dealing with social media.


Do you understand business situational awareness and how your social media could be compromising it?

In 2012 I wrote a blog titled Business Situational Awareness & Social Media and explained how the use of social media by your employees — or, heaven forbid, yourself — could be compromising your business assets. Go review that (short) post as a little refresher. This is also a point I cover when I speak on social media law and you can hear that discussion here at the 15:00 mark of this presentation: Social Media Law: It is Real and, Yes, Really Can Impact Your Business (embedded below) as it too will only take you a couple of minutes to put it into perspective.

Now that you get the big picture of what I am talking about when I refer to business situational awareness, check out this fantastic post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by Martin Harrysson (@martinharryson), Estelle Metayer (@competia), and Hugo Sarrazin (@hugosarrazin) titled How Not to Unwittingly Reveal Company Secrets. Here is a teaser:

Here’s a quick quiz: Have you ever tweeted your business-travel plans? Does your LinkedIn profile describe what you do in great detail? Is localization enabled on your mobile device when you use social media?

If you answered yes to any of those, you and your company may have left footprints that your competitors can detect and analyze.

Does that sound familiar? Do you recall my story about my visit with the expert witness in the video presentation? Harrysson, Metayer and Sarrazin provide some more great examples of how companies’ assets can be compromised through the use of social media and, more importantly, provide 7 steps companies can take to help reduce their exposure. Go check out their article and, as you can see, the links are to their Twitter handles so why not say hello and let them know you appreciated their fine work!

You can click the following link for more posts on Social Media Law. Should you or anyone you know need assistance in dealing with these issues or just want to talk about the law in general, please feel free to give me a call (469.635.1335) or email me ( or catch me on Twitter (@shawnetuma) and I will be more than happy to talk with you!

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