The Department of Defense is prohibiting personnel from using geolocation features on their devices while serving in certain locations after concerns that the information transmitted from such devices was jeopardizing the security of American forces around the world, including those deployed in classified or sensitive areas.
This includes fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps. The department said in January that it was reviewing its policies regarding location-tracking devices and apps after the fitness tracking app Strava published an interactive map online that accidentally revealed the locations of USA military bases in sensitive locations around the world.
If a commander determines the risk is too great, the devices and apps themselves won't be prohibited, so long as the location-tracking features on them can be ― and are ― switched off.
According to the Associated Press, commanders have been tasked with determining whether Global Positioning System functionality should be allowed at their location based on the potential security risks that such use could pose.
In cases where these capabilities pose a "threat to personnel and operations", commanders and supervisors will provide OPSEC training and "apply a tiered structure for categorizing location and operations sensitivity while incorporating risk factors to ensure restrictions are consistently and rationally applied", the memo states. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.
'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.
"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.
That memo allowed cellphones to still be used in Pentagon common areas and offices, but made clear the current practice that requires phones be left in daily-use storage containers located outside the secure spaces where sensitive or classified materials are handled or discussed.
Heather Pierce, a spokeswoman for Fitbit, said Monday: 'Fitbit is committed to protecting consumer privacy and keeping data safe.
Fitbit users are able to connect their devices to Strava, allowing friends to see any Fitbit-related activities.