DoD Bans Location Tracking Apps, Fitness Trackers, & Smartphones On Battlefield

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

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".

"Effective immediately, DoD personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on both non-government and government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas", Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a memo to the leaders of departments within the Pentagon. But Defense Department leadership stopped short of instructing troops to leave their wearable devices at home.

Under the new order, military leaders will be able to determine whether troops under their command can use the Global Positioning System function on their devices, based on the security threat in that area or on that base.

Many popular devices and applications, including smartphones, smart watches, fitness and dating apps use geolocation and some applications could potentially not work with the geolocation features turned off.

"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", according to an August 3 memo from Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense.

Troops stationed overseas in places like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan would likely be restricted from using the devices or be required to turn off any location function. Within the U.S., 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.

Troops in areas where security is less of a concern, such as bases in the United States or at the Pentagon itself, can still use their GPS-equipped devices and apps in most cases.

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".

That memo allowed cellphones to still be used in Pentagon common areas and offices, but made clear the current practice that requires phones be left in daily-use storage containers located outside the secure spaces where sensitive or classified materials are handled or discussed.

The Pentagon also said it will provide additional cybersecurity training to include the risks posed by the trackers and other mobile devices.

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