USA troops and defense personnel won't be allowed to use smart watches, tablets, cellphones or fitness trackers with Global Positioning System tracking at sensitive locations or in warzone areas, according to a Defense Department memo released Monday.
"Effective immediately, DoD personnel are prohibited" from using geolocation apps and features, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan wrote in a memo sent Monday to all service leaders.
After data from the Strava fitness app was shown to depict US personnel movements at military bases, the Pentagon is restricting the use of geolocation devices. The new measure is most likely caused after a heatmap, generated by the activity of users of the fitness app Strava, revealed the locations of U.S. military bases in foreign countries. Manning, the Pentagon spokesperson, said punishments for doing so would be "determined on a case-by-case basis" and that commanders would be given "some type of space to make decisions on the ground".
'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.
While the Pentagon is not banning the devices, it is imposing restrictions on them. In other locations, Shanahan orders, "the heads of DoD Components will consider the inherent risks associated with geolocation capabilities on devices, applications, and services, both non-government and government-issued, by personnel both on and off duty". The map is not live, but shows a pattern of accumulated activity.
Defense officials anxious that individuals could use the map to identify running routes around remote or classified US military bases or in warzones, suggesting that soldiers' lives could be at risk.
This is the second memo affecting the use of cellphones and other electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.
Prior to announcing the new Pentagon policy, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) advised the United States soldiers to be vigilant of their smart devices revealing their locations to third parties.
That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas.
Strava apparently intended no harm but, you can guess how uneasy this made service members and senior Pentagon officials. As CNN noted, the rule would apply to a wide range of products and apps including fitness trackers, smartphones and potentially even dating apps.