The Indian Army has urged its officers holding crucial posts to discontinue the usage of their social media accounts, Facebook & WhatsApp in particular, for any official communication due to the utmost security of the confidential data & its feared leakage.
The judgment to ban social media for officials appears after the recent Pegasus-WhatsApp spying controversy. The hacked devices included in the Pegasus scam, owned by an Israel-based NSO group, were that of Indian journalists, lawyers, writers, academics, and social activists.
The decision comes after the Army’s cyber group conducted an analysis of social media trends and realized that the widely used social media platform Facebook turned out to be a central source of collecting intelligence, according to sources.
Indian Army Advisory’s advice on social media
The advisory has asked its officials holding high Indian Army ranks not to use WhatsApp for official communication, deactivate their Facebook accounts, not store any official data on smartphones, avoid email clients, to strictly use smartphones for calling & SMS only. They also told to exercise restraint in posting comments on social media, ensure proper privacy settings, be aware of OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) information on personnel, and not to link Gmail with any other applications.
The Pegasus-WhatsApp spying controversy has stained WhatsApp’s image further. Despite this, WhatsApp continues to claim that its end-to-end encryption was not compromised. Pegasus comes as the marketed name for the surveillance software developed by an Israel-based NSO Group that claims to only operate with government & government-related agencies.
Moreover, as a safety precaution, the territorial Army officials & their families have been discouraged from posting their pictures in uniform or images that can reveal their sensitive positions on social media apps. The social media policy for the Army was formulated and launched in 2016 but has not been taken into a serious note.
WhatsApp vs Court
The Indian State’s concerns about WhatsApp are not limited to Pegasus but also revolve around the WhatsApp traceability issue that surrounds around it being able to track down the source of fake news, misinformation and other questionable content circulated on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp and Facebook are presently involved in a Supreme Court case against the Indian government over the claim for traceability of the origin of the messages circulated on WhatsApp.