New DoD Policy Prohibits GPS-Enabled Devices in Deployed Settings

New DoD Policy Prohibits GPS-Enabled Devices in Deployed Settings

New DoD Policy Prohibits GPS-Enabled Devices in Deployed Settings

"We don't want to give the enemy any unfair advantage", Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters on Monday.

"Therefore, effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government- and non-government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas", according to the memo.

The order says the applications on personal or government-issued devices present a "significant risk" to military personnel, so those capabilities must be turned off in certain operational areas.

While the devices themselves will not be banned, service members will be responsible for ensuring their geolocation features are disabled.

In January, Secretary Jim Mattis called for a review of using such devices and apps after news broke that Strava, an exercise tracking company that calls itself "the social network for athletes", published "Heat Maps" of military service members' fitness routines, particularly in remote areas of foreign countries where their presence is often sensitive. 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".

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For all other locations, such as installations in the United States and overseas, "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 memo states.

Data released by Global Positioning System tracking company Strava in November 2017 shows where the users of fitness devices are around the world, including Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, as shown in this screenshot. Because Strava's userbase there was nearly entirely made up of military personnel, United States bases were shining like a beacon, including the ones that are removed from services like Google Maps.

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. But it also stopped short of banning the devices, and instead made clear that cellphones can still be used in common areas and other offices in the Pentagon if classified information is not present.

This includes physical fitness aids, applications in phones that track locations, and other devices and apps that pinpoint and track the location of individuals. The Pentagon also said it would be providing additional cybersecurity training to personnel as it pertains to such devices an apps.

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