They allow us to communicate with each other instantaneously, share content, and expand the circle of associates, connoisseurs and friends. However, using social media in close protection and utilising it for private purposes are in stark opposition. Or is that really the case?
What people outside of the executive protection industry post daily may be of no particular interest to anyone. However, what EPAs post on their company and personal pages makes all the difference, especially when clients are involved.
Many security firms use social media solely to market their business. Others obsess over taking photos with their clients to showcase that they are in high demand. Thirdly, some take precautions in managing their online presence, paying attention to their clients’ security needs and concerns.
Self-promotion is evident even in the EP industry. We can all recall the times when a photo opportunity for the security professional jeopardised the safety of protectees.
According to one study, social media users post more than 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video content every day. Moreover, these numbers will only grow in the coming years.
With such a high quantity of information flow, how can CPOs manage their online presence in the 2020s? This article explains why monitoring the principal’s social media feed can help protective agents take pre-emptive measures and more.
Protecting the Principal From Themselves
When executives and HNW families make travel arrangements, they sometimes share the locations with their massive online following. However, this approach is wrong, as it could inform bad actors about the routes and routines they might take.
There is an ongoing debate in the CP industry regarding the use of social media by principals and security specialists. How should they intelligently and carefully approach it?
One school of thought posits that the CPOs and EPAs should have a say about what and when the protectees post online. The second school of thought asserts that protective agents should create a threat and risk assessment so exhaustive that they can predict every possible contingency— thereby allowing the principal and their entourage to post as often as they like on any conceivable topic.
Still, it is inadvisable to do the latter and expect to evade harm. Therefore, we recommend limiting the room for potential emergencies by restricting the outpouring of information. Or at least refraining from doing so until it is safe to assume that the principal is no longer vulnerable. Either by posting well after the fact or when the principal is in an alternative location.
Suppose the EP team travels to an off-road event in a remote area in Australia or Indonesia. Making this information freely available could be interpreted by bad actors as an invitation to surveil an enterprise leader taking part in the activity, which increases the likelihood of an impending attack.
That is why the security staff should warn the principal, their family, and business associates about not posting any information that could reveal one of several things:
- Plans and schedules
- Sensitive information
In fact, every principal wants their security staff to be their “keeper of secrets” to some degree. Thus, protectors should be the corrective factor in this regard, not the ones causing disruption.
Introducing Policies for Social Media in Close Protection
Many security companies do not have appropriate social media policies in place. This can be harmful in the event of crisis situations, especially when they go viral — as they often do.
But what do social media policies include? Generally speaking, this type of document covers the following aspects:
- Guidelines for employees who post both as a private person and as the company’s representative,
- Recommendations for workers to not intentionally or inadvertently harm someone’s reputation or contribute to a hostile work environment in any shape or form.
As a matter of fact, the protective agent’s social feed must not contain any offensive content. This includes any discriminatory wording or false information based on sex, race, disability, religion or other status protected by company policy or the law.
But there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all policy for social media in close protection. Instead, every security company should develop its own. At the same time, they must be aware that — without one — they are increasing the chance of poor employee behaviour on the internet.
Nevertheless, that is not to say that all security professionals are unaware of their responsibility while posting online. In fact, most will likely resist sharing even the most exciting sights and avoid giving in to the most promising photo opportunity.
Regulation in Action
At any rate, introducing policies for social media in close protection is the best course of action when it comes to regulating what goes and does not go online.
In addition, a proper document of this kind should entail procedures for
- Addressing complaints,
- Writing and approving educational posts, videos, and information,
- Responding in conflict situations online,
- Outlining the basic steps for protecting the reputation of the security company, the principal, and accompanying individuals,
- Selecting employees in charge of managing social media accounts,
- Enforcing consequences, etc.
The benefits of good social media policies always pay off in the long run, even though advantages may seem ephemeral at first.
The modern threat landscape is constantly evolving. In fact, bad actors have access to the same resources as close protection officers. And social media is one of many. But, it is a less known fact that those wishing to harm the CEO or HNW family will often employ cyberattacks targeting their social media profiles.
In any case, oversharing and untimely sharing of content can lead to elevated risk levels for the principal and the security staff. It may seem benign, but the dangers of social media in close protection operations are many and various.
For instance, a principal unaware of social media threats may fall victim to:
- Financial scams,
- Misuse of personal photos and data,
- Persecution and harassment,
- Malware, phishing,
- Numerous forms of violence, and
- Diverse harmful and illegal content (especially for children of principals).
Bearing all this in mind will help the security team and principal’s entourage make better decisions while managing their online activities.
Companies like Panoptic Solutions support individuals and organisations in enhancing productivity and peace of mind by offering unmatched close protection services.