Pentagon Restricts Use Of Fitness Trackers, Location-Tracking Apps Over Security Concerns

Leslie Hanson
August 7, 2018

"These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of Department personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", it said.

There was little clarity Monday on how the new policy banning US troops from using geolocation will be enforced.

"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents a significant risk to the Department of Defense personnel on and off duty, and to our military operations globally", according to an August 3 memo from Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense. "You can see the supply lines, you can see the patrol routes in some cases, and you can see the infrastructure within the bases".

But troops on missions in more sensitive locations, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or parts of Africa would be restricted from using the devices or be required to turn off any location function. At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered a review of personal electronics and fitness trackers afterward and initially left open the possibility that the use of electronics in stateside locations such as the Pentagon could be drastically curtailed.

USA troops and defense personnel won't be allowed to use smart watches, tablets, cellphones or fitness trackers with Global Positioning System tracking at sensitive locations or in warzone areas, according to a Defense Department memo released Monday.

Operational areas mostly consist of sensitive overseas locations where US personnel are deployed.

This was all sparked when reports surfaced earlier this year of a fitness-tracking company, Strava, publishing maps showing where users jog, bike and exercise.

Tablets, smart phones, smart watches and fitness devices will no longer be allowed to be turned on in warzone areas, according to a Defense Department memo. Shanahan's memo also gave the military's combatant commanders guidance on how to seek authorization for the use of geolocation features should they deem it necessary.

While the devices themselves will not be banned, service members will be responsible for ensuring their geolocation features are disabled.

"One of the things about the policy is that we wanted to make sure that as we were developing it, we were very clear about giving commanders latitude ... to make decisions on the ground", Manning said.

"It's a necessary evolution", he added.

The ban takes effect immediately, it said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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