Pentagon restricts use of geolocation software for troops

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Robert Manning III told reporters yesterday that Global Positioning System use can "potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission" in locations around the world.

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.

Shanahan said in the memo, dated August 3 and released Monday, that the rapidly evolving market of devices, applications and services using geolocation "presents significant risk" to USA troops and Defense Department employees.

The change comes more than seven months after an worldwide security student, Nathan Ruser, reviewed information released by the GPS tracking company Strava and discovered that a "global heat map" it provided could be used to map the locations of us troops and other security forces overseas.

The prohibition of such tracking services, which range from smartphone and tablet applications to wearable fitness trackers, is created to protect information about where American servicemembers are operating, said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

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By placing a partial ban on the devices, the Pentagon is in a sense warning against overusing its own technology.

The Pentagon made public a memo issued on Friday which said the geolocation capabilities presented a "significant risk". Within the United States, 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.

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.

The new restrictions come after the fitness app Strava introduced a "heatmap" feature late past year showing where users workout, inadvertently making it easy to find hidden American military bases overseas.

The decision follows the discovery of a second fitness smartphone app, called Polar Flow, that allows users to share information about their running routes and related to their location - which can compromise safety and missions if users are located on military bases, intelligence agencies or other sensitive locations. The Pentagon's response also comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress calling for "enhanced assessments and guidance ... to address security risks in DoD" posed by internet of things devices.