Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Pentagon Bars Troops from Using GPS-Tracking Devices While Deployed

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations
Delores Daniels | 07 August, 2018, 13:55

Deployed personnel are in "operational areas", and commanders will make a determination on other areas where this policy may apply.

"These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", the memo said.

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

The Pentagon is clamping down on troops' use of fitness trackers and phone apps that allow a user's location to be tracked, officials said Monday (Aug 6), after it emerged that sensitive data was ending up online.

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The Pentagon said in January it was reviewing policies regarding such devices after it was revealed that Strava, a fitness tracking app that maps people's exercise habits, may have inadvertently revealed the locations of security forces 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", Manning said in a statement.

Those who violate the ban on geolocation features will be dealt with on a case by case basis depending on the severity of the infraction, Manning said.

Data released by Global Positioning System tracking company Strava in November 2017 shows where the users of fitness devices are around the world, including Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, as shown in this screenshot. And while heavily populated areas were well lit, warzones such as Iraq and Syria show scattered pockets of activity that could denote military or government personnel using fitness trackers as they move around. The decision came after concerns were raised about exercise trackers and other electronic devices.

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The memo does say that Combatant Commanders, who oversee USA troops around the world, could authorize the use of the devices, but only after conducting "a threat-based comprehensive Operations Security survey".

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

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas where sensitive matters are discussed. "Unlike a smartphone, location data is not collected by Fitbit unless a user gives us access to the data, and users can always remove our access".

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