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

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

But Defense Department leadership stopped short of instructing troops to leave their wearable devices at home.

The Pentagon is banning deployed personnel from using fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps that use geolocating features that could reveal the user's location. The policy applies to fitness trackers, cellphones, smartwatches and other electronics that can be tracked using Global Positioning System technology.

"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities. presents significant risk to Department of Defense personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally", the Pentagon said in its Friday memo.

The restriction likely won't affect troops and personnel at major military bases in the US or the Pentagon itself; but those in more sensitive locations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan will probably be impacted.

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

Manning said the department will continue to study the risk associated with these devices and change the policy as needed.

"We don't want to give the enemy any unfair advantage", Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters on Monday.

One base cited in the article is not available on public maps such as Google and Apple maps, but its internal layout could be gleaned from looking at mapped jogging routes of soldiers there using the fitness tracking software.

The restrictions were issued some six months after the location and movements of USA troops were included in a usage map published by the Strava fitness tracking company.

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.

"For instance, we have seen indications where family Facebook postings have been used to analyze the movement of military units and thus compromised operations".

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.

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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