he history of war worldwide is replete with espionage dramas and a lot of disinformation, misinformation and honey traps. They have often worked far more effectively than advanced weaponry. The Wehrmacht (German army), for instance, was considered invincible for a while with the kind of weaponry the country had developed and deployed. But in the initial years, what the Nazi party had depended on for consolidating its power over Germany was subduing enemies with fear induced by a ruthless secret police, the Gestapo. However, as the war progressed, it was the allies that surpassed the Nazis in intelligence gathering. That finally pivoted the war away from the Axis powers. Such instances are proof of the power that intelligence gathering wields over conventional weapons and nuclear deterrents. It is against such a backdrop that the ban of smartphones on Naval ships and the ban on social media at Naval bases need to be viewed. Intelligence agencies from different nations are undoubtedly after information that could subvert the interests of India in multiple fields. Even if the armed forces of the country may be ramshackle with borrowed arsenal and outdated military technology, the necessity for keeping the integrity of the nation’s forces is vital. The country was witness to incidents of the likes of the ISRO spying case that involved a scientist. Of course, the Supreme Court sometime ago exonerated the scientist of charges in the case. About a month back, the Indian army had also issued an advisory to its personnel to not become part of WhatsApp groups with persons not known to them as the administrators. Such precautions are essential for the forces to be protected against infiltration. What has made smartphones a huge security threat is the invention of spyware such as Pegasus created by an Israeli start-up. The spyware had reached such advanced capability as to install itself on the target phone merely by means of a missed call. The threat is very real as someone could easily be snooping on unsuspecting soldiers through the device.
But the ban on use of smartphones and being present on social media may no longer be a safe guard. Take for example the brand new Google Map unleashed in the US recently. Named The Street View Project, this map has created huge controversy because of its snooping abilities. Google admitted to having collected humongous data for preparation of this map. Similarly, the innumerable data collection drives being undertaken by not only the Indian government but also private entities leaves all citizens, including serving and retired armed forces personnel, vulnerable to being spied upon. The amount of data being ‘mislaid’ by government contractors, as admitted by a company titled Score Information Technology (SITL) handling those documents on behalf of government should be frightening by itself.
Therefore, banning mobile smartphones or use of socmed will not solve any problems in a country like India with its haphazard methods of handling personal data. It will be losing a war.