August 27, 2013

Social media has never been more prolific than it is today. Companies often focus on social media as a marketing tool, but applications like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter present unique challenges for business aviation, especially to corporate and personal security.

One of the main reasons companies rely on business aviation is the ability to conduct meetings on sensitive issues in-flight. Companies go to great lengths to keep the location of new construction sites, merger and acquisition details and other information confidential. Yet, pilots or other employees using social media can inadvertently expose proprietary information. A simple status update or tweet posted by a pilot on a social media application can reveal the aircraft’s likely location. The company’s logo, a pilot’s uniform or other identifying information in the background of a picture can unintentionally expose company information to the public.

Many social media applications let users set security or privacy settings, but these methods might not be 100 percent effective, cautioned Charlie LeBlanc, vice president of security services at FrontierMEDEX and chairman of NBAA’s Security Council. “As a society we have become familiar with sharing ourselves on social media and feeling as though we are protected, when in reality it takes a third grader with basic hacking abilities to break through the privacy settings of most social media applications. We have an unfounded presumption of privacy.”

Jo Damato, NBAA’s director of educational development & strategy and staff liaison to the Schedulers & Dispatchers Committee, said social media has been a frequent topic among committee members.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all issue,” said Damato. “Some NBAA Member Companies embrace social media, while other companies only use social media for branding and marketing purposes from one centralized department.” Likewise, company policies regarding personal use of social media by employees is not a simple answer.

Many companies find developing a social media policy challenging.

“What crosses the line from personal life into professional life? That’s where it gets murky and companies struggle,” said LeBlanc. Flight department employees have access to information most other company employees do not, and organizations must emphasize their employees’ responsibility to protect that information.

“It is a difficult area to control through policy,” added LeBlanc. “Crew members must be reminded that their ‘private life’ isn’t really their private life when they are on the road for the company. They are 24/7 representatives of their organization and are responsible for protecting their employer’s interests.”

NBAA’s 2014 Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC2014), set for Jan. 14 to 17 in New Orleans, LA, will include a session focusing on these and other issues, “Data Security in the Information Age,” with LeBlanc as one of the presenters.

Learn more about SDC2014.