In an advisory to its top personnel, the Indian Army has asked them to stay away from the social networking site Facebook and not share official communication through its messaging app WhatsApp.
The army has told officers holding higher ranks and sensitive posts in all headquarters, divisions and brigades to deactivate Facebook, which has turned out to be an effective source of gathering intelligence.
There have been numerous instances of loss of information through social media — which could well be inadvertent — despite multiple directives issued to army personnel time and again on the threats and implications of using the online medium, said a report by The Print quoting the advisory which was issued in October.
Armed forces personnel and their relatives have been asked not to share pictures or share locations on social media apps. It further added that officers should avoid sharing official information on WhatsApp, which despite its claimed end-to-end encryption, would be of no help in case the mobile device gets compromised.
The messaging app was in the news last month after it had revealed that its service was used to conduct cyberespionage on Indian journalists, human rights activists and others by Israeli technology firm NSO Group using its spyware Pegasus.
Besides, Facebook-owned Whatsapp is already locked in a court battle with the govt over the issue of traceability of messages on its platform.
Indian Army’s advisory has come after it conducted an analysis of social media trends and use by its personnel. Since 2016, the army has been following a social media policy.
This is not the first instance where the defence department or defence ministry has red-flagged use of social networking apps.
Earlier, the government had warned against sharing sensitive information on 36 Chinese-owned or linked apps including Weibo, WeChat, SHAREit, UC News, and UC Browser as they are either spyware or malware and can be used against the country, the advisory had said.
India’s Ministry of Defence had then advised its armed forces personnel to remove and uninstall over 42 Chinese-linked apps as these have been classified as ‘spyware’.
Meanwhile, the Indian government continues to be the second-largest country to request information on its citizens from Facebook. Till June this year, the government had sent 22,684 legal and emergency requests for data, out of which 54% were complied to by Facebook.