DoD Bans Location Tracking Apps, Fitness Trackers, & Smartphones On Battlefield


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

It's up to ranking officers in less-sensitive areas to decide whether their charges can use Global Positioning System functions, based on the threat level in that location.

"These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of Department personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", it said.

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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". The department said in January that it was reviewing its policies regarding location-tracking devices and apps after the fitness tracking app Strava published an interactive map online that accidentally revealed the locations of USA military bases in sensitive locations around the world. But it says the "geolocation capabilities" can present a "significant risk" to military personnel, so those functions must be turned off in certain operational areas.

By placing a partial ban on the devices, the Pentagon is in a sense warning against overusing its own technology.

Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said potential penalties will be determined on a case-by-case basis by commanders in the field. Within the United States, the colorful web of lines was mostly just an interesting way of visualizing runners' data, but in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, the map showed much more.

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The Pentagon immediately launched a review.

That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas where sensitive matters are discussed. As CNN noted, the rule would apply to a wide range of products and apps including fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps.

"For instance, we have seen indications where family Facebook postings have been used to analyze the movement of military units and thus compromised operations".

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