Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness trackers

Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness trackers

Military troops and Defense Department personnel deployed to sensitive areas such as war zones will no longer be able to use fitness trackers and cellphone applications that pinpoint their location. But Defense Department leadership stopped short of instructing troops to leave their wearable devices at home.

Last Friday, an order went into effect, banning the use of location services on both personal and government issued devices used by service members of the USA military.

The new order will allow military leaders to decide if troops can use the Global Positioning System function on their devices, based on the security threat in that area or on that base.

In cases where these capabilities pose a "threat to personnel and operations", commanders and supervisors will provide OPSEC training and "apply a tiered structure for categorizing location and operations sensitivity while incorporating risk factors to ensure restrictions are consistently and rationally applied", the memo states.

The decision follows the discovery of a second fitness smartphone app, called Polar Flow, that allows users to share information about their running routes and related to their location - which can compromise safety and missions if users are located on military bases, intelligence agencies or other sensitive locations.

The U.S. military is prohibiting its deployed personnel from using geolocation features on smartphones, fitness trackers and other devices because they could create security risks by revealing their location, the Pentagon said on Monday. 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.

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The Pentagon discovered a fitness tracking app may have accidentally revealed security force locations around the world.

A portion of the Strava Labs heat map from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, made by tracking activities.

Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said it's a move to ensure the enemy can't easily target USA forces.

The Pentagon immediately launched a review.

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. That information can present enemies with information on military operations.

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