Following several incidents in which USA military bases and patrol routes have been compromised by fitness trackers used by soldiers deployed to sensitive locations overseas, the Pentagon banned using any gadgets that can pinpoint the location of United States personnel across the globe.
According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, the Pentagon is restricting the use of fitness tracking devices and apps at sensitive bases and some "high-risk warzone areas".
The move to increase troop security comes in part as a response to exercise-logging company Strava publishing a map compiling its users' activity.
"Effective immediately, DoD personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on both non-government and government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas", Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a memo to the leaders of departments within the Pentagon.
According to the Associated Press, commanders have been tasked with determining whether Global Positioning System functionality should be allowed at their location based on the potential security risks that such use could pose.
The change comes more than seven months after an worldwide security student, Nathan Ruser, reviewed information released by the GPS tracking company Strava and discovered that a "global heat map" it provided could be used to map the locations of USA troops and other security forces overseas.
"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", Manning said yesterday.
The new restrictions come after the fitness app Strava introduced a "heatmap" feature late past year showing where users workout, inadvertently making it easy to find hidden American military bases overseas.
Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said potential penalties will be determined on a case-by-case basis by commanders in the field. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.
This is the second memo affecting the use of electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.
Military commanders will be able to make a judgment call on when troops can power up their smart devices, depending on the status of their operation. 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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