Pentagon Bans Fitness And GPS Trackers For Deployed Personnel

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

The Pentagon announced Monday that USA military personnel are no longer allowed to use "geolocation capabilities" on personal or government devices, such as iPhones and fitness-tracking devices, during operational deployments and at the discretion of commanders any other time.

US troops and civilian Defense Department employees are now prohibited from using geolocation features or functionality on government-issued and personal devices while in locations identified as "operational areas", according to a new memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

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.

In Iraq and Syria, viewers could easily spot beacons of activity in remote places where military bases are located, presumably indicating favorite jogging or walking routes.

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

According to the Associated Press, commanders have been tasked with determining whether Global Positioning System functionality should be allowed at their location based on the potential security risks that such use could pose.

In all other locations, including the Pentagon, troops and defense personnel will be able to use the GPS-enabled devices if leaders decides it doesn't pose a risk.

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The new policy says the ban applies to all personnel in "operational areas", which Manning said "absolutely" includes troops deployed overseas.

The Department of Defense has banned the use of any smartphone and applications that use geolocation services in operational areas.

US troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017.

"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.

The Pentagon immediately launched a review, noting that the electronic signals could potentially disclose the location of troops who are in secret or classified locations or on small forward operating bases in hostile areas.

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas where sensitive matters are discussed.

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