Pentagon tells troops: Turn off fitness tracker GPS when you head to warzones

Pentagon tells troops: Turn off fitness tracker GPS when you head to warzones

Enlarge / A heatmap of Strava "workout" data revealed sensitive locations around the world, including some mysterious places in Syria. (credit: Strava)


The Pentagon has now made it official. Eight months after a researcher discovered that the "heatmap" feature of the Strava fitness tracking community was revealing the location of US military facilities in Syria and other conflict zones as well as some troop movements, the Department of Defense has instructed troops headed to potentially hostile territory to turn off the Global Positioning System features of their fitness tracking gadgets and mobile applications.


In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, the new instructions state that “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." But Defense Department leadership stopped short of instructing troops to leave their wearable devices at home.


Instead, the memorandum instructs that the devices' geospatial tracking capabilities must be turned off in sensitive or dangerous operating areas where the exposure of location data could cause a "significant risk" to members of the military. Operational commanders will be given leeway to decide whether GPS tracking needs to be turned off by their troops based on the threat level in their area of operations.


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