Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness trackers

Staff Sgt. Reag Wood of 1st Combined Arms Battalion 5th Brigade 1st Armored Division illustrates how he uses an iphone to obtain a visual image of a mock with insurgent activity during a field training exercise at White Sands Missile Range N.M. (U.S

"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.

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.

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

Troops stationed overseas in places like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan would likely 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.

The Aug. 3 memo, first reported by The Associated Press, does not completely ban the fitness trackers or other electronic devices, but orders that they must be turned off in certain operational areas "effective immediately". The global map reflected more than 1 billion paths that the Strava app tracked - but patterns and locations of US service members could be gleaned from zooming in on sensitive or secured areas.

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Prior to announcing the new Pentagon policy, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) advised the United States soldiers to be vigilant of their smart devices revealing their locations to third parties.

A review of Pentagon policies about the devices that made this possible was ordered and that's what this memo is all about.

Defense officials anxious that individuals could use the map to identify running routes around remote or classified US military bases or in warzones, suggesting that soldiers' lives could be at risk.

Defense personnel who aren't in sensitive areas will be able to use the Global Positioning System applications if the commanders conclude they don't present a risk.

Troops in areas where security is less of a concern, such as bases in the USA or at the Pentagon itself, can still use their GPS-equipped devices and apps in most cases. 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.

Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said potential penalties will be determined on a case-by-case basis by commanders in the field.

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