Monday, 10 December, 2018

Pentagon restricts fitness trackers, after apps revealed secret bases

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations
Johnnie Parks | 08 August, 2018, 18:58

According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, the Pentagon is restricting the use of fitness tracking devices and apps at sensitive bases and some "high-risk warzone areas".

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. 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.

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

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered a review of personal electronics and fitness trackers afterward and initially left open the possibility that the use of electronics in stateside locations such as the Pentagon could be drastically curtailed. The global map reflected more than 1 billion paths that the Strava app tracked - but patterns and locations of US service members could be gleaned from zooming in on sensitive or secured areas.

The Pentagon's new order has been many months in the making.

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The Pentagon announced Monday that it is putting new restrictions on USA troops carrying electronics, following revelations early this year that information they were sharing online could be collated to determine the locations of US bases and units overseas.

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.

There was little clarity Monday on how the new policy banning USA troops from using geolocation will be enforced.

Defense personnel who aren't in sensitive areas will be able to use the Global Positioning System applications if the commanders conclude they don't present a risk. The Pentagon started looking into it shortly after Strava published a heat map showing where users were exercising, including on military bases at home and overseas. Shanahan's memo also gave the military's combatant commanders guidance on how to seek authorization for the use of geolocation features should they deem it necessary.

The new policy says the ban applies to all personnel in "operational areas", which Manning said "absolutely" includes troops deployed overseas.

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