New DoD policy: Deployed service members cannot use GPS-enabled devices

New DoD policy: Deployed service members cannot use GPS-enabled devices

Deployed service members may have to ditch their fitness trackers in response to a new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan prohibiting the use of Global Positioning System functions in deployed 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.

"These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", a memo obtained by the Associated Press said. The new measure is most likely caused after a heatmap, generated by the activity of users of the fitness app Strava, revealed the locations of U.S. military bases in foreign countries.

"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", according to Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning III.

'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, ' Manning said. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.

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One base cited in the article is not available on public maps such as Google and Apple maps, but its internal layout could be gleaned from looking at mapped jogging routes of soldiers there using the fitness tracking software.

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.

The decision follows the discovery of a second fitness smartphone app, called Polar Flow, that allows users to share information about their running routes and related to their location - which can compromise safety and missions if users are located on military bases, intelligence agencies or other sensitive locations. In May, defence officials laid out new restrictions for the use of cellphones and other mobile wireless devices inside the Pentagon.

Operational areas are places where "military personnel are there for a very specific objective or mission" such as Operation Inherent Resolve or Operation Freedom's Sentinel, according to Maj.

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