Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Pentagon restricts use of GPS-enabled fitness trackers

Pentagon restricts use of GPS-enabled fitness trackers

Outlines of US outposts in Syria and Iraq could be seen in the maps because many USA military personnel used fitness tracking devices, while few local people own them, according to media reports.

'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, ' the memo said.

The memo does say that Combatant Commanders, who oversee United States troops around the world, could authorize the use of the devices, but only after conducting "a threat-based comprehensive Operations Security survey".

In one recent instance, the fitness app Polar revealed locations of people exercising in secretive locations such as intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world, Bellingcat reported.

For all other locations, such as installations in the United States and overseas, "the heads of DoD components will consider the inherent risks associated with geolocation capabilities on devices, applications, and services, both non-government and government-issued, by personnel both on and off duty", the memo states.

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If a commander determines the risk is too great, the devices and apps themselves won't be prohibited, so long as the location-tracking features on them can be ― and are ― switched off.

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

The order says the applications on personal or government-issued devices present a "significant risk" to military personnel, so those capabilities must be turned off in certain operational areas. Within the U.S., 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.

Those who violate the ban on geolocation features will be dealt with on a case by case basis depending on the severity of the infraction, Manning said. Military operatives are still allowed to use their devices but must disable geolocation services, or face punishment. In May, defense officials laid out new restrictions for the use of cellphones and other mobile wireless devices inside the Pentagon.

The latest memo says the new restrictions include Global Positioning System functions on fitness trackers, phones, tablets, smart watches and other applications. 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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