Pentagon Bans GPS Fitness Apps, Says They’re ‘Significant Risk’ To Troops

Pentagon Bans GPS Fitness Apps, Says They’re ‘Significant Risk’ To Troops

After concerns were raised earlier this year, the Pentagon has banned military troops and other workers at sensitive sites from using fitness trackers and other applications that can reveal the user's location. In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, the Pentagon says that apps using a device's GPS function represent a risk to military activities and personnel. "The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally," it reads. "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." While devices such as smart watches, tablets, cellphones or fitness trackers aren't themselves banned under the order, individual military leaders will be able to rule on whether local staff can use GPS, depending on the specific level of security threat. The move follows the discovery earlier this year by Nathan Ruser, a student studying international security at the Australian National University, that the fitness app Strava was revealing sensitive information through its publicly-available activity map. For nearly two years, the app was displaying the movements of users in locations such as US bases in Afghanistan and Syria, a French military base in Niger and even Area 51. Another researcher, Paul Dietrich, claimed he was even able to sue data scraped from the activity map to track one individual soldier from country to country. There are a huge number of apps that can potentially reveal a user's location - everything from shopping apps to dating sites. However, in the longer term, the military may need a rather stricter regime than the new memo implies.

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The Pentagon building, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. (AP Photo)

After concerns were raised earlier this year, the Pentagon has banned military troops and other workers at sensitive sites from using fitness trackers and other applications that can reveal the user’s location.

In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, the Pentagon says that apps using a device’s GPS function represent a risk to military activities and personnel.

“The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally,” it reads.

“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.”

While devices such as smart watches, tablets, cellphones or fitness trackers aren’t themselves banned under the order, individual military leaders will be able to rule on whether local staff can use GPS, depending on the specific level of…

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