Pentagon restricts use of geolocation software for troops

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military is prohibiting its deployed personnel from using geolocation features on smartphones, fitness trackers and other devices because they could create security risks by revealing their location, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The decision follows concerns raised in January when an Australian researcher’s analysis of data posted by Strava, a fitness tracking app, on activities of its users revealed locations of American forces in Syria and Iraq.

The Pentagon made public a memo issued on Friday which said the geolocation capabilities presented a “significant risk.”

“These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of Department personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” it said.

The memo said Defense Department personnel were prohibited from using “geolocation features and functionality on government and non-government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas.”

The ban takes effect immediately, it said.

Strava posted heat maps showing movements of people exercising while wearing fitness tracker devices and publicly sharing the time and location of their workouts via the app.

Outlines of U.S. outposts in Syria and Iraq could be seen in the maps because many U.S. military personnel used fitness tracking devices, while few local people own them, according to media reports.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Chris Reese

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