New Policy Prohibits GPS Tracking in Deployed Settings

Pentagon puts restrictions on fitness trackers | TheHill

Pentagon restricts use of fitness trackers, other electronic devices that reveal locations

Military troops and Defense Department personnel deployed to sensitive areas such as war zones will no longer be able to use fitness trackers and cellphone applications that pinpoint their location.

"The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications and services with geolocation capabilities presents a significant risk to the Department of Defense personnel on and off duty, and to our military operations globally".

While the devices themselves will not be banned, service members will be responsible for ensuring their geolocation features are disabled.

Since many of its users are members of the military, their jogging routes and other exercises showed exactly where the U.S. has service members around the world, as well as showing their running routes.

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The prohibition of such tracking services, which range from smartphone and tablet applications to wearable fitness trackers, is created to protect information about where American servicemembers are operating, said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

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

For all other locations, such as installations in the United States and overseas, "the heads of DoD components will consider the inherent risks associated with geolocation capabilities on devices, applications, and services, both non-government and government-issued, by personnel both on and off duty", the memo states. However, the rule may also apply to military installations in the United States if the commander deems it necessary for base security.

The memo does say that Combatant Commanders, who oversee USA troops around the world, could authorize the use of the devices, but only after conducting "a threat-based comprehensive Operations Security survey".

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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.

Senior Pentagon officials determined the potential for such information to be published again in the future posed an operational security risk to servicemembers, Manning said. As CNN noted, the rule would apply to a wide range of products and apps including fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps.

The Pentagon's new order has been many months in the making. The Pentagon's response also comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress calling for "enhanced assessments and guidance ... to address security risks in DoD" posed by internet of things devices.

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