Pentagon bars troops from using fitness trackers & geolocation services

Pentagon bars troops from using fitness trackers & geolocation services

Pentagon bars troops from using fitness trackers & geolocation services

Last Friday, an order went into effect, banning the use of location services on both personal and government issued devices used by service members of the U.S. military.

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

Specifically, their use can be authorized after "conducting a threat-based comprehensive Operations Security (OPSEC) survey" or if the use of geolocation on government-issued devices is necessary to carry out a mission.

The restrictions were issued some six months after the location and movements of US troops were included in a usage map published by the Strava fitness tracking company.

"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally", the memo states".

Department of Defense leaders first were alerted to the potential issue in January after it was found that users of the app Strava, which tracks routes for running and riding bicycles, are tracked on publicly accessible maps as part of a social networking feature. Within the USA, the colorful web of lines was mostly just an interesting way of visualizing runners' data, but in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, the map showed much more.

Manning said the department will continue to study the risk associated with these devices and change the policy as needed.

'It goes back to making sure that we're not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we're not showcasing the exact locations of our troops worldwide, ' Manning said.

That memo allowed cellphones to still be used in Pentagon common areas and offices, but made clear the current practice that requires phones be left in daily-use storage containers located outside the secure spaces where sensitive or classified materials are handled or discussed.

Strava posted heat maps showing movements of people exercising while wearing fitness tracker devices and publicly sharing the time and location of their workouts via the app.

The Pentagon also said it will provide additional cybersecurity training to include the risks posed by the trackers and other mobile devices.

Related news