IDF Releases New Guidelines for Smartphones

Soldiers now expected to be respectful of their cell phone usage, both online and in public, in system designed to prevent security risks.

Tova Dvorin ,

Soldier using smartphone (illustration)
Soldier using smartphone (illustration)
IDF Spokesperson's Office

A new set of rules and guidelines has been released for IDF soldiers, it was revealed Tuesday, so as to improve the military's image and increase soldiers' sense of seriousness regarding their duties. 

Oren Ebman, until recently head of the Ground Forces and Division Commander, last week published a list of rules for the use of network devices and smartphones, according to Walla! News.

The brochure emphasized that soldiers are expected to behave well in public places across Israel, including on trains and buses.

Among the guidelines are directives to limit how smartphones and computers are used - to cut down on loud music, for example - and to curtail the use of poor language.

Primary directives include means of increasing security, including, of course, limiting the information shared between soldiers or to the public about their specific missions, and other potentially sensitive details.

Particular care was taken to address the issue of WhatsApp, the popular social messaging app which has become the center of more than one security breach. "Remember: your words can go viral - think twice before you press 'submit,'" one directive states. 

More soldiers are asked to avoid personal protest against the commanders on the Internet, and to resolve issues of harassment by direct dialogue.

The IDF's ground forces do not prohibit cell phone usage during training, but the guide did stress that the new regulations are meant to foster some of the advantages of a ban: preventing soldiers from losing focus as well as security breaches.

Moreover, due to theft of mobile phones among the soldiers, Army Headquarters added that subordinates are expected keep their phones properly secured during exercises. However, the IDF did maintain that it will not be held responsible for theft, loss or damage to soldiers' mobile devices. 

In addition, commanders defined the expected hours for using mobile devices, during which soldiers will be allowed to talk on the phone.

To prevent the soldiers' parents from alarm, commanders of each unit will notify families of the unit's phone number so they could be contacted during an emergency. 

The directive surfaces after multiple security breaches before and during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, mainly through Whatsapp. 

In September, two soldiers were disciplined for illegally releasing the names of soldiers killed in July, during an APC attack that left 13 soldiers dead. To make matters worse, some of the names initially leaked were in fact incorrect. 

Earlier this year, officers banned soldiers from using the popular messaging app during operations, citing security risks.

And in February, several IAF pilots were reprimanded after they stored sensitive maps and flight plans on their smartphones.