Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronics

Enlarge  A heatmap of Strava

Enlarge A heatmap of Strava"workout data revealed sensitive locations around the world including some mysterious places

The Pentagon announced Monday that it is putting new restrictions on USA troops carrying electronics, following revelations early this year that information they were sharing online could be collated to determine the locations of US bases and units overseas. The map prompted fears among security experts that people could use such data to plan attacks on US troops.

The Defense Department will also provide training on the risks that fitness trackers bring. Otherwise, the Pentagon warned, using gadgets can potentially create "unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", states the 'DoD Policy on the Use of Geolocation-Capable Devices, Applications, and Services in Deployed Areas'.

"The biggest concerns with the data is firstly it allows an unprecedented look at the geographic build of a lot of these bases", Ruser told ABC News in January.

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.

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And as mobile devices and other location-enabled technology become more and more essential in life outside of the Pentagon and off of military installations, it will be interesting to see how this policy affects both individual DOD personnel and service members as well as the larger institution as it works to keep pace with the commercial world.

Military personnel "in locations designated as operational areas" 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", the Pentagon stated.

The restrictions were issued some six months after the location and movements of US troops were included in a usage map published by the Strava fitness tracking company.

This guidance applies only to operational areas, where military operations are being conducted. But the report stopped short of banning fitness trackers or other electronic devices outright.

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"One of the things about the policy is that we wanted to make sure that as we were developing it, we were very clear about giving commanders latitude ... to make decisions on the ground", Manning said.

From now on, deployed service members will have to resort to low-tech ways of tracking their fitness activities.

"It's a necessary evolution", he added.

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

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