South Korea’s military is contemplating a ban on iPhones within its facilities due to concerns over potential information leaks via voice recordings. An internal announcement from the Air Force headquarters on April 11 outlined a prohibition on devices capable of voice recording without third-party app control, with iPhones specifically named.

The decision to consider this ban originated from joint meetings among the Army, Navy, and Air Force headquarters at Gyeryongdae in South Chungcheong Province. The directive aims to block all voice recordings, including both formal and informal communications within military buildings.

Currently, this ban is being piloted in the Army, and there’s a possibility it could extend nationwide, affecting nearly 500,000 military personnel. The ban would also include smartwatches and wearable devices. Interestingly, Android-based smartphones, especially Samsung’s Galaxy series, are expected to be exempt due to their better compatibility with the National Defense Mobile Security app.

The app restricts various smartphone functions like the camera and microphone. While Android phones allow for this control, iPhones largely do not, which is a key reason for their potential ban. The app was introduced in 2013 to enhance security, initially for select military officers and later extended to all personnel by 2021.

Discussions about this ban gained traction last September when SK Telecom launched a call-recording feature for iPhones, which sparked concerns due to privacy issues surrounding call recordings. This feature is popular among Galaxy users, with nearly 70% of Koreans using Galaxy phones.

The debate also touches on the balance between security and human rights. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has criticized the mandatory installation of the security app as overly restrictive. The Defense Ministry is contemplating extending smartphone usage hours for soldiers, favoring Android users due to their device’s better compatibility.

This potential ban could widen the divide between Android and iPhone users within the military. Despite some criticisms of the security app’s reliability, efforts are underway to improve it. The Commission suggests revising the law to make app installation optional for non-essential personnel and locations.

Source Korean Herald

By Harry