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08 August 2018, 06:58 | Melissa Porter
Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations
Instead, the memorandum instructs that the devices' geospatial tracking capabilities must be turned off in sensitive or risky operating areas where the exposure of location data could cause a "significant risk" to members of the military.
"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities (e.g., fitness trackers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and related software applications) presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally".
The move to increase troop security comes in part as a response to exercise-logging company Strava publishing a map compiling its users' activity.
Combatant commanders may authorize the use of geolocation capabilities on non-government devices, applications, and services in operational areas after conducting a "threat-based comprehensive Operations Security (OPSEC) survey", according to the memo.
After taking their time, higher-ups at the Pentagon decided that the Global Positioning System functionality on mobile devices is a security risk and information from them can be used by enemies of the United States, even if app developers don't voluntarily share it with the world. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.
Deployed personnel are in "operational areas", and commanders will make a determination on other areas where this policy may apply.
Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning told reporters on Monday that the new policy ensures "we're not giving the enemy an unfair advantage", while at the same time "keeping pace with technology".
Manning said the department will continue to study the risk associated with these devices and change the policy as needed. It includes physical fitness aids, applications in phones that track locations, and other devices and apps that pinpoint and track the location of individuals.
The Pentagon immediately launched a review. 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.
Military officials are set to create risk management guidelines and new training for those devices within 30 days, the report said.
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