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China military issues smartwatch ban over security fears

China has warned its soldiers not to use smartwatches and wearable gadgets as they could be in breach of army security protocols.

The country’s military issued a statement against the use of Internet connected devices after a recruit attempted to take a photograph using a smartwatch. Restrictions surrounding mobile phone use are already in place.

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"The use of watches that have Internet access, location information, and telephone conversation functions should be considered a violation of secrecy regulations at army barracks," explained the People's Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese military.

After learning of the new recruit’s smartwatch use, authorities at the Nanjing barracks confiscated the device before analysing the data. The report did not identify the wearable as the Apple Watch, simply stating that the recruit had received it recently as a birthday present.

It is being reported that army barracks have now been supplied with teaching materials and warning signs in order to prevent a repeat incident. Military personnel have also been instructed to spread word of the wearable ban.

China is likely to be particularly stringent when it comes to security for the foreseeable future, following a claim by the foreign ministry that it was hacked recently. Technology firms based in the United States must now hand over their encryption keys to the Chinese government before they are allowed to trade in the Asian country.

According to the BBC, the UK’s Ministry of Defence does not prevent troops from using networked devices unless they are working in an environment where security is a key concern. Although military organisations across the globe will be forced to take a stance on the rise of wearable technology, some commentators have suggested that smartwatches and similar devices could be a help to soldiers, rather than a security hindrance.

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For example, the use of small, personal cameras by British troops stationed in Afghanistan provided video that proved useful to future operations.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.