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Social Media and Aviation Security

Feb 4, 2013

by Frank Spranza


A decade ago almost no one would have thought that interacting on a global scale through such media as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, My Space or Linkedin would be an essential part of modern life.  Today, as PC's have become household items - much like toasters, coffee pots and microwave ovens- and nearly everyone pockets a ‘smart phone", tablet or iPad, at work and at play, social media has become the channel of choice for interactions between humans around the globe.  Whether sharing private moments, life experiences, looking for love, or simply to solve problems, the use of social media of one type or another has become nearly indispensable to most of our daily lives.

Social media technologies take on many different forms including magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, micro blogging, wikis, social networks, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. As a key example, Facebook alone registered over one billion active users during 2012.

While most find social media a purely recreational pastime, for others it has become an integral part of their professional life.  Particularly in the world of aviation, where new technologies are quickly adapted, whether in the cockpit or on the ground, social media networking has found its way into the AVSEC professional's toolkit.


The value of Networking: Building a Professional Network

Airlines and airports are quickly realizing the value of social media in influencing passenger flow, customer spending and in providing real-time data which allows planners and administrators to gain a better understanding of passenger behavior, facilitation and needs.

For the aviation security professional, use of social media networks not only offer a means of interacting with others, say those met at conferences, trainings and workshops, but also provides a venue for making new acquaintances with individuals in similar jobs and having similar interests, from airlines and airports around the globe while learning of the latest news stories and incidents occurring at airline stations servicing their airport, through networks such as Digg.2

Far beyond simple ‘chatting' online or picture sharing, these social networks offer users a varied and seemingly unlimited data base for research, problem solving and real-time information sharing experiences. Website networks such as Linkedin (select groups shown to the right) can easily be queried resulting in a host of Aviation and AVSEC related groups in which one can easily interact. Users quickly find that their counterparts -regardless of their geographic location- often share common problems, issues and requirements.  While for some an issue may be ‘new' in nature, one can bet that for others the problem has been solved, the solution revised and evaluations made.  Finding that person or group of individuals who have experienced what is ‘new' to you and adapting their solution to your unique situation can save time, resources and effort.  Looking for a source regulation, rule or requirement can often be time consuming and, if one is not particularly web-savvy an inordinate waste of time.  Social networking can often provide contact with other professionals who can quickly provide direction and in some cases PDF versions of uncommon or hard to locate regulations, manuals and Technical data.

For those who have neither the time, nor patience to scroll every group, tweet, or posting on their media sites, many offer email alerts to notify users when a new item, discussion or response has been posted to the group.  Users can then eliminate the often tedious task of reviewing each social media site in search of a specific response or document reference.


Organizational Use

Not to be remiss, more and more organizations are acknowledging the usefulness of social media sites above and beyond simple advertisement and marketing.  Building unique spaces with restricted access to company employees provides a channel of real-time access and communication within the organizational structure.

Recognizing that employees rely on their smart phones, iPods, iPad and laptops for communication, information and as tools to be used in their daily tasks, many organizations now integrate key aspects of their operation through these media channels.

As interactive electronic formats such as computer based training and digital libraries become commonplace, many organizations are turning to the social media networks both as a venue of communication and as a framework for in-house CBT systems.  Employees can ask questions of training staff, exchange ideas and even complete assignments all in a virtual environment.  Group discussions, problem solving and even evaluative instruments can be tailored to meet the individual platform requirements.  Activities such as simulated exercises and individual evaluations can be conducted using both the network and smart phone or tablet hardware common to nearly every employee.

Immediate responses by supervisors, separated from individual staff by hundreds, or in many cases thousands of miles, can be done in a real-time format. Employees, through various links, photos and video can reference technical manuals, instructions and even discuss multiple solutions to immediate problems over secure networks.

In another example through the use of Geo-location software - common to several social media channels-supervisors can track the exact position of security force members and vehicles throughout the airport property.  Suspicious travelers can be silently and precisely monitored in much the same way airports such as the Copenhagen Airport project 3tracks travelers movements based on Wi-Fi enabled devices they carry.    


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