From now on, deployed service members will have to resort to low-tech ways of tracking their fitness activities.
That’s because a new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan prohibits the use of GPS-enabled devices – including wearable fitness trackers and smartphone apps that can track your location – in deployed settings, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
“Effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government and nongovernment-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning said on Monday.
The new restrictions come after the fitness app Strava introduced a “heatmap” feature late last year showing where users workout, inadvertently making it easy to find hidden American military bases overseas.
“Zooming in on one of the larger bases clearly reveals its internal layout, as mapped out by the tracked jogging routes of numerous soldiers,” The Guardian reported at the time. “The base itself is not visible on the satellite views of commercial providers such as Google Maps or Apple’s Maps, yet it can be clearly seen through Strava.”
Following that revelation, the US military in January said it was reviewing its wireless device policies.
“The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities presents a significant risk to the Department of Defense personnel on and off duty, and to our military operations globally,” Manning said yesterday. Such devices and apps can, for instance, reveal service members’ personal information, locations, routines, and more. The DoD says commanders will be responsible for implementing the new policy.