Pentagon restriction on geolocation features


The US military is prohibiting deployed personnel from using geolocation features on smartphones, fitness trackers and other devices because they could create security risks, the Pentagon said.

The decision follows concerns raised in January when an Australian researcher’s analysis of data posted by Strava, a fitness tracking app, on user activity revealed locations of American forces in Syria and Iraq.

The Pentagon made public a memo which said geolocation capabilities presented a “significant risk.”
“Geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, numbers of Department of Defence personnel and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” it said.

The memo said Defence Department personnel were prohibited from using “geolocation features and functionality on government and non-government-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated operational areas.”

The ban takes effect immediately.

Strava posted heat maps showing movements of people exercising while wearing fitness tracker devices and publicly sharing time and location of their workouts via the app.

Outlines of US outposts in Syria and Iraq could be seen in the maps because many US military personnel used fitness tracking devices, while few local people own them, according to media reports.