The Indian Army is reported to be introducing a total ban on social networking amongst its servicemen and women as it is fears that sites like Facebook could lead to crucial information leaking into the wrong hands.

The ban, which was reported by Ad Age and is yet to be confirmed by authorities, is said to require the force’s 36,000 officers and 1.3 million other personnel to immediately cease using and delete their social networks profiles. New recruits will be informed that they are not permitted to even join, let alone use, social networks at any point while they service in the army.

The increase in photos of officers in uniform, with weapons or amongst their units posted to the Web has led to concerns that important information may be at risk through sites like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and others.

While authorities aren’t fearful of officers revealing data themselves, they are concerned that those who are clearly identified as army personnel could be targeted by stings or honey-traps. Such tactics are commonly used in the business world, where fake accounts are set up with the intention of friending insiders to gain their trust and extract crucial information through conversations on social networks.

A source revealed that “if any officer or soldier is found violating [the order], strict action will be taken”, although no specific details of punishments was given.

The increase in modern communication is posing new and difficult demands for armed forces and other organisations that deal with confidential information. In Singapore, for example, Apple has begun selling its iPhone devices without a camera as authorities look to mitigate the data risk associated with modern smartphones.

The move hasn’t come out of the blue and, as Pluggdin explains, four naval officers were investigated this week after leaving confidential information through social networks, while a similar incident took place in 2009.

The alternative to an all-out ban, which is not likely to be well received by army personnel, would be a scheme to educate servicemen and women of the dangers of online communication and the Internet. However, the risk of officers being trapped appears to be sufficient enough for the army to take no risks and roll out a blanket ban.

Image credit: Flickr user soldiersmediacentre