Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

The Pentagon bans the use of mobile location services for security reasons

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations
Gustavo Carr | 07 August, 2018, 19:43

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.

"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", it added.

USA military have been banned from using fitness trackers, smartphones and other devices and services over the fear that geolocation features might jeopardize the secrecy of American operations overseas, the Pentagon has announced.

The Global Heat Map, published by the Strava fitness app, used satellite information to map the locations of subscribers to Strava's fitness tracking service.

"The biggest concerns with the data is firstly it allows an unprecedented look at the geographic build of a lot of these bases", Ruser told ABC News in January.

"As we were developing it, we wanted to be very clear about giving commanders latitude, some type of space, to make decisions on the ground", said Col. Rob Manning, the Pentagon press operations director, the Examiner reported. Within the United States, the colorful web of lines was mostly just an interesting way of visualizing runners' data, but in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, the map showed much more.

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At the time, the Pentagon insisted that the classified or sensitive locations of USA service members had not been compromised by the data.

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.

US troops and civilian Defense Department employees are now prohibited from using geolocation features or functionality on government-issued and personal devices while in locations identified as "operational areas", according to a new memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

Operational areas mostly consist of sensitive overseas locations where USA personnel are deployed. Military operatives are still allowed to use their devices but must disable geolocation services, or face punishment.

It also highlights the larger debate over the military's use of technology and its handling of cybersecurity.

While the devices themselves will not be banned, service members will be responsible for ensuring their geolocation features are disabled.