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WASHINGTON — Army researchers found security violations on official service Web portals at nearly 40 times the rate of soldiers’ blogs, according to documents from a digital watchdog group released last week.

The data from the Electronic Frontier Foundation was part of the Army’s answer to a lawsuit requesting information about the Army’s tracking and troubleshooting of soldier’s personal sites.

Since early 2006, members of the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell — a branch of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Data Processing Unit — have been monitoring personal sites along with official service Web addresses.

Officials have said the goal is to make sure they don’t contain security violations, such as pictures of roadside bomb attacks, details of base security measures or even troop locations and unit strength figures.

According to the AWRAC reports, researchers looked over 878 Army-run Web sites and 594 soldiers’ blogs between January 2006 and January 2007.

The report showed on average more than two security violations for every official Army site reviewed, but only one such violation for every 23 blog sites researched.

In addition, analysts found 48.3 violations per 100,000 official Web pages reviewed, but only 1.3 security breaches for comparable numbers of soldiers’ personal Web pages.

“This shows that bloggers seem to be doing a good job keeping sensitive material off their sites,” said Marcia Hofmann, EFF attorney and spokeswoman. “It appears that where they should be focusing more attention is on their own sites.”

Army officials announced stricter blogging guidelines earlier this year in an effort to make sure sensitive material isn’t posted on easy-to-access Web sites.

The guidelines require troops consult with commanders and operational security officers before posting any information online.

“The Army has every right to be monitoring those blogs, but these numbers indicate that on the whole it’s not a big problem,” Hofmann said.

But Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the monitoring cell’s review of both blogs and official Web portals is critical for the safety of all soldiers.

“That’s their main job: to look at Army Web sites and advise Army organizations on effective updates to maintain operations security,” he said. “The Army respects every soldier’s First Amendment rights while also adhering to operations security considerations to ensure their safety on the battlefield.”

According to the documents released to EFF, the 13-month review by the AWRAC found 26 security violations on the personal blog sites and 1,965 breaches on official Web sites.

Army officials did not release any details on the severity or subject of the security lapses.

Hofmann said contradictory data given to the group puts the number of security lapses on official sites even higher, but Army officials could not clarify by press time whether those figures were accurate.


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