Pentagon restricts use of geolocation software for troops

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations

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.

Eight months after a researcher discovered that the "heatmap" feature of the Strava fitness tracking community was revealing the location of United States military facilities in Syria and other conflict zones as well as some troop movements, the Department of Defense has instructed troops headed to potentially hostile territory to turn off the Global Positioning System features of their fitness tracking gadgets and mobile applications.

The move to increase troop security comes in part as a response to exercise-logging company Strava publishing a map compiling its users' activity.

Commanders will still have the discretion to authorise the use of Global Positioning System devices and apps based on mission requirements and risks to operational security.

"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", Manning said.

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

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"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", said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

"Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers", The Guardian reported at the time.

The Pentagon immediately launched a review.

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

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. As CNN noted, the rule would apply to a wide range of products and apps including fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps.

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas. But it also stopped short of banning the devices, and instead made clear that cellphones can still be used in common areas and other offices in the Pentagon if classified information is not present. 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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