On December 20, Intelligence agencies busted an espionage racket linked to Pakistan with the arrest of seven Indian Navy personnel and a hawala operator.(HT Photo)
On December 20, Intelligence agencies busted an espionage racket linked to Pakistan with the arrest of seven Indian Navy personnel and a hawala operator.(HT Photo)

Indian Navy bans smartphones, social media on bases, ships

The arrest of the 7 navy officials for leaking sensitive information about the movements of warships and submarines to Pakistani agents had exposed lapses in the security apparatus placed in the Indian Navy.
By Sunetra Choudhury | hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 30, 2019 10:35 PM IST

A new order in the Indian Navy, issued on Friday, has banned the use of social media sites and smartphones for all personnel. This comes after the recent Vishakapatnam case where seven sailors were arrested for allegedly passing on information to Pakistan, through a spying racket which had agents posing as women on social media.

The case was cracked this month by the Andhra Pradesh Police which found a hawala operator managing the operation with the help of the navy personnel posted in Mumbai, Karwar and Vizag.

The order, first reported by the Stratpost website, says, “Recent case of inimical elements targeting naval personnel over social media to elicit sensitive/operational information is a matter of serious concern necessitating stringent correctives.” Listing out what will now be treated as contraband in the Navy, it says that Facebook will be banned and there will be no more smartphones on naval bases or dockyards and even ships. So all staffers from the Chief and down below, have to all delete their facebook accounts.

When Hindustan Times reached out to the Navy spokesperson, they were unavailable for comment. However, with the widespread use of social media sites, the order has proved to be quite a source of concern for many. The order further says that the Navy is also considering further ban on messaging apps, blogging, content sharing, and even e-commerce sites which means that shopping from them will also be no no.

Explaining this move and fully supporting it, Captain DK Sharma, who was the spokesperson of the force till he retired said, “As they say, loose lips sink ships. You have to be absolutely discreet and this has to be drilled into the minds of one and all.”

Till now, the Navy and other forces had only an advisory on discreet use of social media. That meant that they shouldn’t be putting out any photos of themselves in uniform or share any work details. Now, even that is stopped, but there isn’t any bar on social media use of their family members yet.

One former officer said that they could expect lockers outside official rooms to deposit all phones and even someone deleting all user profiles. “There were honeytrap cases before too,” he said. “So it is unsure how effective this will be.”

The Navy’s own Facebook page, however, will continue to operate to showcase the work to all.

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