Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other location-sharing apps

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

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. Otherwise, the Pentagon warned, using gadgets can potentially create "unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", states the 'DoD Policy on the Use of Geolocation-Capable Devices, Applications, and Services in Deployed Areas'.

USA 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.

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

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, stops short of banning the fitness trackers or other electronic devices, which are often linked to cellphone applications or smart watches and can provide the users' Global Positioning System and exercise details to social media.

In other words, commanders may decide to restrict the use of geolocation capabilities on devices on areas of installations where "sensitive activities" are conducted, Harris said.

For example, troops exercising at major military bases around the country, such at Fort Hood in Texas or Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, would likely be able to use the location software on their phones or fitness devices. Troops on missions in more sensitive locations, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or parts of Africa, meanwhile, would be restricted from using the devices or be required to turn off any location function. The decision came after concerns were raised about exercise trackers and other electronic devices.

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

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

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. Officials say that information can present enemies with information on military operations.

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

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