Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness devices

  • Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness devices

Pentagon restricts use of location-logging fitness devices

"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", Shanahan wrote in the memo. Audricia Harris told reporters that it was a blanket restriction on the devices at locations deemed as an "operational area", which could include ships out at sea, classified bases or warzones or hostile locations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or parts of Africa.

Because so many U.S. personnel were utilizing fitness tracking applications in Iraq and Syria, where few locals own them, the researcher was able to clearly identify outlines of United States military bases. 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.

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.

At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017. But it seems the heatmap was inadvertently mapping places that should have been kept secret.

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.

Defense officials anxious that individuals could use the map to identify running routes around remote or classified USA military bases or in warzones, suggesting that soldiers' lives could be at risk.

The Pentagon immediately launched a review.

The new restrictions come after the fitness app Strava introduced a "heatmap" feature late a year ago showing where users workout, inadvertently making it easy to find hidden American military bases overseas.

The latest memo says the new restrictions include Global Positioning System functions on fitness trackers, phones, tablets, smart watches and other applications.

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.

"DoD CIO, in collaboration with Dollars (I), will update the annual Cybersecurity Awareness training to assist DoD personnel in identifying and understanding risks posed by geolocation capabilities embedded in devices and applications", he wrote.

Fitbit users are able to connect their devices to Strava, allowing friends to see any Fitbit-related activities.