Larger camera phones still banned in SAF camps

Smartphones, with or without cameras, with screens larger than 4.3 inches are still not allowed into camps. (Screengrab from HardwareZone forum)

(UPDATED 4 Sept with the rule about phones with screens larger than 4.3 inches)

Despite the new test pilot initiative to allow camera-enabled phones into army camps, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note users don't have a reason to rejoice just yet.

This photo has been making its rounds over the internet, stating that phones with screens larger than 4.3 inches are not allowed into camps. With the S III and Note's screens measuring 4.8 inches and 5.3 inches respectively.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the rule for phones with screens no larger than 4.3 inches -- with or without a camera -- is an existing one, and is not set to change with the new pilot security zoning programme. No explanation was given as to why such a rule is needed.

Yahoo! reader Nevin Tay commented on Facebook. "I can vouch for this. Got stopped at the gate of my camp for bringing in a S III. Had to deposit it in a locker near the security office."

Another user, Wilson Aw questioned the basis of the rule, saying,  "What's the point of restricting the screen size? Big or small screen, both can perform and same functions, isn't it?"

Last week, MINDEF announced that it would allow the use of camera-enabled phones in 14 selected camps from 1 Sep onwards in a test pilot project.

In a media statement, MINDEF said the pilot security zoning programme would segregate these 14 camps into Red and Green Zones.

Bedok, Maju, Khatib, Kranji II and III, Jurong II, Seletar, Clementi, Pasir Ris, Sungei Gedong, SAFTI Military Institute, Depot Road, Pulau Tekong and Pasir Laba Camps are the 14 camps involved in the pilot project.

[Full list and the Green Zones here]

Servicemen will be allowed to carry camera-equipped mobile phones into the Green Zones, while those who need to enter the Red Zone will have to deposit their phones at designated lockers prior to entry.

Red Zones include areas with classified information and equipment such as server rooms, unit operation rooms and offices with computer access to sensitive data.

All other areas outside the Red Zone will be marked as Green Zone -- this includes bunks, medical centres and cookhouses.

However, photography in all SAF camp premises for both Red and Green Zones is still not allowed unless given prior permission.

Plans to review the camera-phone ban were first announced in September 2011, because SAF recognised that there were “potential benefits provided by smartphones”.

Earlier this year, local telco M1 started selling a modified iPhone with no camera to cater to in-camp personnel.

In 2007, SAF 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.