Pentagon restricts fitness trackers, after apps revealed secret bases

Pentagon restricts fitness trackers, after apps revealed secret bases
Location data revealed the whereabouts of secret US bases in the Middle East after firm Strava published The Global Heat Map.
2 min read
07 August, 2018
Fitness apps have emerged as a new security threat [Getty]

US troops and defence personnel at military bases in warzones won't be allowed to use fitness-tracker apps, according to a new Pentagon order, after location data allowed users to infer the location of secret bases.

The memo, obtained by AP, says apps present a "significant risk" to military personnel. But the report stopped short of banning fitness trackers or other electronic devices outright. 

The new order will allow military leaders to decide if troops can use the GPS function on their devices, based on the security threat in that area or on that base. 

"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.

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

"It goes back to making sure that we're not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we're not showcasing the exact locations of our troops worldwide," said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

Concerns about exercise trackers emerged in January after the company Strava published The Global Heat Map, using satellite information to map the locations of subscribers to its fitness service. Warzones such as Iraq and Syria showed scattered pockets of activity that denoted US military or government personnel using the service. 

The Pentagon immediately launched a review. 

This is the second memo affecting the use of cellphones and other electronic devices that the department has released in recent months. In May, defence officials laid out new restrictions for the use of cellphones and other mobile wireless devices inside the Pentagon.

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas. 

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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