Internet networking: Many benefits, many dangers

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- If you haven't heard about MySpace then you have probably been living in a cave for the last year. MySpace.com, a cyberspace community where friends, families and even strangers meet up online to network with one another, has more than 100 million users.
MySpace can be a very useful communication tool; however, when not used safely, it can cause problems. 

"MySpace is a great new thing and it's here to stay, but there are some things you need to worry about," said Maj. Michael Cote, 39th Communications Squadron commander. "Things like identity theft, critical military information and not presenting a professional military image are all things people need to worry about when networking on MySpace." 

"People shouldn't be discussing things like deployments or any security issues," said 1st Lt. John Fogle, 39th Operations Squadron intelligence officer. 

Even though many people aren't aware of the dangers of putting personal information on the Web, Capt. Theresa Thomas, 39th CS flight commander, says people shouldn't shy away from MySpace because it does have benefits. 

"Even the Air Force is using MySpace now as a recruiting tool," she said. "But members cannot access MySpace on a government computer." 

As the third most popular Web site on the Internet, MySpace reaches 49 percent of all Internet users between the ages of 18 to 24. These numbers are one of the main reasons the Air Force launched its own profile on MySpace. 

"In order to reach young men and women today, we need to be in tune and engaged in their circles," said Col. Brian Madtes, Air Force Recruiting Service's strategic communications director. "MySpace.com is a great way to get the word out to the public about the amazing things people are doing in the Air Force." 

In addition to the 30-second commercials, users will be able to view expanded videos of Airmen as they fly and fight, call in air strikes, navigate satellites and jump out of airplanes. The reality TV film clips include personal, unscripted interviews from Airmen in today's Air Force. MySpace users can also become "friends" of the Air Force, download wallpaper and post messages about what else they would like to see in the ad campaign. 

Following the Sept. 18 commercial premiere, Internet users will be able to go to the DoSomethingAmazing.com Web site where they can view more than 100 videos of Airmen in action. 

Maj. Cote said the Air Force doesn't want to discourage people from going onto MySpace, they just want people to know the dangers of putting too much personal information online. 

"We're not trying to stop the water," he said. "We are just trying to help people swim."