We’ve known for a while that military personnel using GPS-enabled health tracking apps and accessories in sensitive operational areas was kind of a problem, from an intelligence standpoint. Such appliances make it wicked easy for someone to check in on the wearer’s daily routine, whereabouts or, should enough people in an operational area use the same service like Strava, figure out where personnel congregate at certain times of the day, no satellite surveillance or human intelligence assets required. Well, it looks like the Department of Defense has finally decided to do something about it: As of right now, DoD employees are no longer allowed to wear or use a wide variety of health tracking hardware.
The ban was first announced in an August 3 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. It follows a months-long investigation into the use of location-tracking apps after the fitness app Strava published a global heat map that accidentally revealed the locations of several United States military bases. 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.
How the United States military will enforce this ban is anyone’s guess, at this point. According to Stars & Stripes, it’s not immediately clear what the punishment for accidentally tracking your run with your smartphone might be, or what consequences a solider might face for intentionally wearing their Fitbit into a war zone (what time was it and what was your heart rate when you were being shot at? Some folks just gotta know.) During overseas operations, it’s likely that the penalty for the use of GPS-enabled fitness trackers will be pretty stiff. However, as Stars & Stripes points out “…for other locations, such as stateside military installations, local commanders will decide if geolocation features can be used safely.”
Image via U.S. Army