In brief: After nearly seven months of investigation, the Department of Defense has decided that fitness trackers pose a significant security risk at certain military installations. While the Pentagon is not banning the devices, it is imposing restrictions on them. The decision comes after revelations that such apps and equipment can be used to pinpoint bases and troop movement.
Some military personnel are no longer allowed to wear fitness trackers. We can’t reasonably say that we didn’t see this coming. The fact that these devices pose a security risk has been pointed out on at least two separate occasions — first in January, then again in July. The Pentagon started looking into it shortly after Strava published a heat map showing where users were exercising, including on military bases at home and abroad.
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 Department of Defense has gotten wise to the implications of these devices providing valuable intel to enemy agents.
“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,” said the memo.
Strava released their global heatmap. 13 trillion GPS points from their users (turning off data sharing is an option). https://t.co/hA6jcxfBQI … It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable pic.twitter.com/rBgGnOzasq— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) January 27, 2018
The Pentagon stopped short of an outright ban of fitness trackers and related apps. Military personnel will still be able to use them at their commander's discretion. Troops at stateside bases will be less affected by the change than those stationed in places like Syria or Iraq. However, the rule may also apply to military installations in the US if the commander deems it necessary for base security.
“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,” said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.
The new restrictions apply to the GPS functions on fitness trackers, phones, tablets, smartwatches, and other applications. The Pentagon also said it would be providing additional cybersecurity training to personnel as it pertains to such devices an apps.
Lead Image via Fort Carson Mountaineer