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After a gentleman cadet shared "sensitive" information on Facebook with a woman alleged to be a spy, the Indian Military Academy has announced that its cadets will not be allowed laptops, mobile phones or Internet cards.
Militaries around the world have struggled with the question of social media — on the one hand, it is a vital fact of our world and a lifeline for soldiers away from their families and, some would argue, an unbottled genie that will be hard to wish away. On the other hand, it would be a serious security threat for the military to fully embrace Facebook, Twitter and the like. Every unwitting revelation can be duplicated and forwarded, and has great security ramifications. It could expose the military to cyber-spying and attacks. (A garrulous Israeli soldier was court-martialled in 2010 for telling his Facebook the army's plans to raid a Palestinian village.) It was only in February 2010, after an exhaustive seven-month review, that the Pentagon allowed the military to keep their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They came to a sensible conclusion, that the Internet was simply too powerful and useful to be ignored, and that the way forward was to integrate it carefully into military lives, in a way that guarded operational secrecy. For instance, commanders can temporarily cut access to safeguard a mission or reserve bandwidth for official use. It blocks certain activities from military computers and cautions against geo-location apps.
The IMA too could take pointers from these experiences, instead of reflexively banning all modern forms of contact with the outside world. They could frame rules on how the Internet may be used, require approvals for certain posts, and educate their cadets about what is permissible.
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