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 us military bases in sensitive locations around the world.
USA troops and civilian Defense Department employees are now prohibited from using geolocation features or functionality on government-issued and personal devices while in locations identified as "operational areas", according to a new memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.
The announcement comes after news stories surfaced earlier this year that fitness apps such as Polar Flow and Strava have been inadvertently giving away locations and habits of US service members on installations around the world.
It adds, "These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission".
Commanders may also authorize these capabilities on government-issued devices in operational areas "based on mission necessity" as long as they consider risks to operational security, the memo states.
Concerns about exercise trackers and other electronic devices came to a head in January in the wake of revelations that an interactive, online map was pinpointing troop locations, bases and other sensitive areas around the world.
The Department of Defense has banned the use of any smartphone and applications that use geolocation services in operational areas.
"As we were developing it, we wanted to be very clear about giving commanders latitude, some type of space, to make decisions on the ground", said Col. Rob Manning, the Pentagon press operations director, the Examiner reported.
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. And while heavily populated areas were well lit, war zones such as Iraq and Syria showed scattered pockets of activity that could denote military or government personnel using fitness trackers as they move around.
The Pentagon has now made it official.
The Pentagon also said it will provide additional cybersecurity training to include the risks posed by the trackers and other mobile devices.