Pentagon clamps down on fitness trackers, apps using Global Positioning System

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That's because a new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan prohibits the use of GPS-enabled devices - including wearable fitness trackers and smartphone apps that can track your location - in deployed settings, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

"Therefore, effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government- and non-government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas", according to the memo.

Military leaders will be able to conduct risk assessments to determine whether troops under their command can use the devices in the area or on the base they are located.


In one recent instance, the fitness app Polar revealed locations of people exercising in secretive locations such as intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world, Bellingcat reported.

U.S. 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 memo stops short of banning the devices, which are often linked to cellphone apps or smart watches and can share users' Global Positioning System locations and exercise details to social media. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.


In cases where these capabilities pose a "threat to personnel and operations", commanders and supervisors will provide OPSEC training and "apply a tiered structure for categorizing location and operations sensitivity while incorporating risk factors to ensure restrictions are consistently and rationally applied", the memo states.

"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.

A portion of the Strava Labs heat map from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, made by tracking activities.


At the time of the heat map's release, Australian National University student Nathan Ruser, posted findings on Twitter in which he noted Strava user activities that could be related to U.S. military personal at forward operating bases in Afghanistan, Turkish military patrols in Syria, and a possible guard patrol in the Russian operating area of Syria, Wired reported. It includes physical fitness aids, applications in phones that track locations, and other devices and apps that pinpoint and track the location of individuals.

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