Pentagon Bars Troops from Using GPS-Tracking Devices While Deployed


US military troops and other defense personnel at sensitive bases or certain high-risk war zone areas won't be allowed to use features on fitness trackers or cellphone applications that can reveal their location, according to a new Pentagon order.

"These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of department personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission", Maj.

Commanders will still have the discretion to authorise the use of Global Positioning System devices and apps based on mission requirements and risks to operational security.

The Pentagon discovered a fitness tracking app may have accidentally revealed security force locations around the world.

"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.

In all other locations, including the Pentagon, troops and defense personnel will be able to use the GPS-enabled devices if leaders decides it doesn't pose a risk. Within the USA, the colorful web of lines was mostly just an interesting way of visualizing runners' data, but in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, the map showed much more.

This includes fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps.

Deployed personnel are in "operational areas", and commanders will make a determination on other areas where this policy may apply.

A portion of the Strava Labs heat map from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, made by tracking activities.

Those who violate the ban on geolocation features will be dealt with on a case by case basis depending on the severity of the infraction, Manning said.

"Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers", The Guardian reported at the time. In May, defense officials laid out new restrictions for the use of cellphones and other mobile wireless devices inside the Pentagon. Military operatives are still allowed to use their devices but must disable geolocation services, or face punishment.

"The caveat is that combatant commanders can come back and say 'look, under these circumstances we have assessed the risk and this is our decision, ' " Harris said.