The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) said on Monday that it is reviewing the ban on the use of camera-equipped mobile phones and is looking into how such phones could be used inside military camps.
Under proposed changes, army personnel will be allowed to bring the phones into all military installations islandwide, as long as the cameras inside them are removed.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Colonel Desmond Tan, said that it is “exploring ways” to allow its personnel to use the camera-equipped smartphones, “while maintaining our current security policy on disallowing personal image-capturing devices to be used on Mindef and SAF premises”.
He said that the review is being carried out as Mindef recognises the “potential benefits provided by smartphones”, reported The Straits Times.
Present regulations bar servicemen from bringing in camera phones, and because of this many carry two phones – one for in-camp use and another outside.
Colonel Tan also confirmed that selected commanders and operational personnel have been issued with “modified smartphones” – with the cameras removed – on a trial basis.
It is understood that modified iPhone and Android handsets were issued earlier this year to allow Mindef to examine if its security measures are good enough to deal with phones that pose higher risks.
Several changes were made to each modified phone, including having the camera removed and replacing the rear casing with one that did not allow for use of the camera lens.
The new rules could be announced at the end of next month
, and the SAF is believed to be looking for vendors to assist in removing cameras from the handsets
Although it is unclear how much such a service will cost, businesses are charging around $200 to remove cameras from mobile phones.
The changes will also allow smartphone users to tap into the Wi-Fi networks that have been installed in more camps and surf the Internet.
This move is also seen as a turnaround from Mindef’s tight rein on the use of new technology and new media in the interest of security.
In 2007, it banned the use of camera phones within camps and training areas after photos of training activities appeared online. Two years later, military personnel were warned not to form online military groups on social networking website Facebook.