Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other devices

Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other devices

Military commanders will be able to make a judgment call on when troops can power up their smart devices, depending on the status of their operation.

The Pentagon announced Monday that it is putting new restrictions on US troops carrying electronics, following revelations early this year that information they were sharing online could be collated to determine the locations of USA bases and units overseas.

Following several incidents in which USA military bases and patrol routes have been compromised by fitness trackers used by soldiers deployed to sensitive locations overseas, the Pentagon banned using any gadgets that can pinpoint the location of U.S. personnel across the globe.

"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", Manning said.

The move to increase troop security comes in part as a response to exercise-logging company Strava publishing a map compiling its users' activity.

"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities. presents significant risk to Department of Defense personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally", the Pentagon said in its Friday memo.

Manning said that commanders would have some flexibility with regard to enforcing the ban and punishing potential violators.

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Strava posted heat maps showing movements of people exercising while wearing fitness tracker devices and publicly sharing the time and location of their workouts via the app.

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.

While the ban will affect the United States overseas operations, the personnel working at the Pentagon will still be allowed to use the devices.

This is the second memo affecting the use of cellphones and other electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.

The Pentagon immediately launched a review, noting that the electronic signals could potentially disclose the location of troops who are in secret or classified locations or on small forward operating bases in hostile areas.

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