15 September 2019
No smartwatches on those wrists. Photo: Xinhua
No smartwatches on those wrists. Photo: Xinhua

No smartwatches for PLA troops

China has forbidden its armed forces from wearing internet-connected wearable devices such as smartwatches, BBC News reported citing media reports.

The People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military’s official newspaper, said security concerns had been raised after one recruit received a smartwatch as a birthday gift.

NBC News said its sources had confirmed a ban was now in place.

One expert told the BBC the ban was a natural extension of restrictions already placed by most armies on mobile phones.

The PLA Daily said army leaders had sought the advice of experts last month after being alerted to an incident in which a soldier had tried to use a smartwatch to take a photo of his comrades stationed in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

It said the agency responsible for protecting state secrets subsequently issued the following decree: “The use of wearables with internet access, location information and voice-calling functions should be considered a violation of confidential regulations when used by military personnel.”

The newspaper said teaching materials and warning signs had been created to ensure the message was spread among military personnel.

“The moment a soldier puts on a device that can record high-definition audio and video, take photos and process and transmit data, it’s very possible for him or her to be tracked or to reveal military secrets,” it said.

“Anything that is networked — whether it is in your pocket or on your wrist — can be remotely accessed and exploited by others to provide an advantage to adversaries,” the BBC quoted Peter Quentin, a research fellow at the British defence think tank Rusi, as saying.

“That can happen inadvertently or be done deliberately, so it needs to be controlled wherever possible.

“It’s why you already see leaving of phones outside of areas where sensitive discussions take place.”

– Contact us at [email protected]