Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers

Henrietta Brewer
August 8, 2018

After data from the Strava fitness app was shown to depict USA personnel movements at military bases, the Pentagon is restricting the use of geolocation devices.

Military troops and Defense Department personnel deployed to sensitive areas such as war zones will no longer be able to use fitness trackers and cellphone applications that pinpoint their location.

"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. The Pentagon started looking into it shortly after Strava published a heat map showing where users were exercising, including on military bases at home and overseas.

"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.

The memo stops short of banning the devices, which are often linked to cellphone apps or smart watches and can share users' Global Positioning System locations and exercise details to social media.

Deployed personnel are in "operational areas", and commanders will make a determination on other areas where this policy may apply.

At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017.

The ban takes effect immediately, it said.

'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.

This is the second memo affecting the use of electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.

"For instance, we have seen indications where family Facebook postings have been used to analyze the movement of military units and thus compromised operations".

Applicable devices include fitness trackers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and related software applications, according to a copy of the policy memo sent from Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to top DoD leadership last week.

The Pentagon has now made it official. The Pentagon also said it would be providing additional cybersecurity training to personnel as it pertains to such devices an apps.

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