Deployed service members will no longer be allowed to use fitness tracking apps or other wearable technology that relies on geolocation, according to a new Pentagon policy announced Monday.
The devices, which service members use to track the distance and time they have exercised, can expose locations of bases and important facilities based on where the geo-tracking stops. In January the data firm Strava released a heat map based on user data which revealed the locations and pathways of military installations around the globe, prompting a Defense Department review.
The new policy announced Monday is the latest effort to reduce risks to operational security based on personal electronic devices. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered additional security measures to keep cellphones and other electronic devices from sensitive areas within the Pentagon.
“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,” the Pentagon said in a statement accompanying the new smart device policy.
The new policy on Fitbits and other wearable technology does not require a total ban and only affects service members at operational bases or locations. Personnel working at the Pentagon will still be allowed to use the devices.
It also doesn’t prohibit service members from having the devices with them when they deploy, as long as the geolocation services are disabled, said Army Maj. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman. However, each on-site commander, whether aboard a ship or at a forward-deployed base, will have final say as to what gadgets they will allow.
In some cases, the geolocation services will be allowed to be turned on after a security review, according to the new policy.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."