FITNESS, NO TRACKING. The Pentagon recently issued an order to all personnel working at sensitive military bases: for the love of god, stop logging your runs. In a memo acquired by The Associated Press, the Pentagon laid out new rules for how soldiers can use fitness trackers while deployed in a war zone or other high-risk areas. Namely, they need to keep the GPS off.
“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,” the memo said.
NOT-SO-BLURRED LINES. Back in January, Nathan Ruser, who writes for The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, noticed that the global heatmap activity on the fitness app Strava revealed the location of American military bases in Syria, where soldiers used the app on a regular basis.
Because soldiers relied on the app to track their progress as they trained and jogged the perimeter, the heatmap essentially provided a blueprint for the bases. It also gave anyone with a vague interest an idea of soldiers’ daily routines. It’s not hard to imagine that hostile forces could use that kind of information to their advantage. Oops.
The heatmap also revealed the activity of soldiers in other sensitive locations like Area 51 and the British Air Force base in the Falkland Islands.
NOT A BAN. The Pentagon did not ban fitness apps or wearable fitness trackers outright — military personnel can still use them, as long as they stop the apps from collecting location data or otherwise compromising the military’s operations. Fitbit spokeswoman told the AP that the company’s devices couldn’t track anyone who turned off location services. So it seems like there’s no reason to prevent soldiers from using them altogether.
READ MORE: Pentagon tells troops: Turn off fitness tracker GPS when you head to warzones [Ars Technica]
More about location tracking: Google Just Admitted to Tracking Your Location Even When You Have the Settings Disabled