New Delhi: Indian Navy has issued orders for a complete ban on the use of popular social media platform Facebook for navy personnel after repeatedly being exposed to a security breach. The banning order has also been extended to mobile phones with messaging apps like WhatsApp, networking and blogging apps, content sharing, hosting websites, as well as e-commerce platforms.

The restriction order was issued on December 27 after seven navy personnel and a hawala operator from Mumbai were arrested leaking sensitive information through social media platforms in an espionage racket allegedly linked to Pakistan that was busted on December 20. This has been done to avoid navy personnel from becoming targets in honey traps run by spying agents.

The eight accused were produced before NIA court in Vijayawada on Friday. They have been remanded to judicial custody till January 3.

Speaking to news agency ANI, Navy officials said, “Latest orders are in line with ensuring the security of information. Banning of Facebook for officers and sailors of the Indian Navy is in the same lines. Recent incident involving seven sailors has also been taken into consideration while arriving at this decision.”

“We do understand that this may come at the cost of some discomfort, however the decision is in the larger national interest. Directives on the usage of social media and smartphones for Indian Navy personnel have existed before,” the officials added.

The Andhra Pradesh State Intelligence Department had even launched an operation named “Dolphin’s Nose” in association with the Central Intelligence Agencies along with Naval Intelligence to bust the espionage racket.

The agencies stated that in the racket run by Pakistan, three sailors were arrested from Visakhapatnam, two from Karwar and two from Mumbai.They also said that both, the Eastern and Western naval command centres, responsible for the security of maritime borders, had been exposed to the Pakistani intelligence.

The Indian Navy, however, maintained that their critical assets were intact and that there was no breach.