Monday, 24 September, 2018


Pentagon restricts fitness trackers, after apps revealed secret bases

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 Pentagon restricts fitness trackers, after apps revealed secret bases
Patty Aguilar | 08 August, 2018, 18:59

The Department of Defense is prohibiting personnel from using geolocation features on their devices while serving in certain locations after concerns that the information transmitted from such devices was jeopardizing the security of American forces around the world, including those deployed in classified or sensitive areas.

The move to increase troop security comes in part as a response to exercise-logging company Strava publishing a map compiling its users' activity. The department said in January that it was reviewing its policies regarding location-tracking devices and apps after the fitness tracking app Strava published an interactive map online that accidentally revealed the locations of us military bases in sensitive locations around the world.

"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".

The new policy, which is effective immediately, follows reports from earlier this year that some wearable electronic devices, like the popular Fitbit, can convey users' Global Positioning System coordinates in the form of publicly available online maps that display the most frequently trafficked routes of users who allowed their location to be shared. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.

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

At the time of the heat map's release, Australian National University student Nathan Ruser, posted findings on Twitter in which he noted Strava user activities that could be related to United States military personal at forward operating bases in Afghanistan, Turkish military patrols in Syria, and a possible guard patrol in the Russian operating area of Syria, Wired reported.

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.

Many popular devices and applications, including smartphones, smart watches, fitness and dating apps use geolocation and some applications could potentially not work with the geolocation features turned off.

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

The Pentagon has now made it official.

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas.

Operational areas are places where "military personnel are there for a very specific goal or mission" such as Operation Inherent Resolve or Operation Freedom's Sentinel, according to Maj.

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