Pentagon Bars Troops from Using GPS-Tracking Devices While Deployed


U.S. 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. But Defense Department leadership stopped short of instructing troops to leave their wearable devices at home.

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.

Specifically, their use can be authorized after "conducting a threat-based comprehensive Operations Security (OPSEC) survey" or if the use of geolocation on government-issued devices is necessary to carry out a mission.

Operational areas mostly consist of sensitive overseas locations where USA personnel are deployed.

The latest memo says the new restrictions include Global Positioning System functions on fitness trackers, phones, tablets, smart watches and other applications. Troops on missions in more sensitive locations, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or parts of Africa, meanwhile, would be restricted from using the devices or be required to turn off any location function.

The U.S. military is prohibiting its deployed personnel from using geolocation features on smartphones, fitness trackers and other devices because they could create security risks by revealing their location, the Pentagon said on Monday.

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The ban takes effect immediately, it said.

At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017.

And social network app company Strava in November published a heat map that showed the running routes of tens of millions of people using the technology.

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

Operational areas are places where "military personnel are there for a very specific goal or mission" such as Operation Inherent Resolve or Operation Freedom's Sentinel, according to Maj. In May, defense officials laid out new restrictions for the use of cellphones and other mobile wireless devices inside the Pentagon. The Pentagon also said it would be providing additional cybersecurity training to personnel as it pertains to such devices an apps.