The announcement cites an increasing security risk presented by smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and software such as fitness trackers, all of which "potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission".
The Pentagon is banning the use of Global Positioning System on mobile devices in war zones and other sensitive locations, saying that fitness trackers and smartphone apps pose a "significant risk" to US military personnel.
The order says the applications on personal or government-issued devices present a "significant risk" to military personnel, so those capabilities must be turned off in certain operational areas.
While the ban will affect the U.S. overseas operations, the personnel working at the Pentagon will still be allowed to use the devices.
In a public statement issued Friday, the Pentagon classified the use of geolocation technologies against USA forces as a "significant risk".
Combatant commanders may authorize the use of geolocation capabilities on non-government devices, applications, and services in operational areas after conducting a "threat-based comprehensive Operations Security (OPSEC) survey", according to the memo.
"As we were developing it, we wanted to be very clear about giving commanders latitude, some type of space, to make decisions on the ground", said Col. Rob Manning, the Pentagon press operations director, the Examiner reported. Because Strava's userbase there was nearly entirely made up of military personnel, United States bases were shining like a beacon, including the ones that are removed from services like Google Maps. The map showed bright spots of activity in places such as Syria and Somalia, where there were otherwise few users of fitness trackers.
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The Pentagon immediately launched a review.
This is the second memo affecting the use of electronic devices that the department has released in recent months.
For now, it's unclear what will happen to any Pentagon personnel caught using location-tracking devices.
That memo called for stricter adherence to long-held practices that require phones be left in storage containers outside secure areas.
This includes physical fitness aids, applications in phones that track locations, and other devices and apps that pinpoint and track the location of individuals.
"DoD CIO, in collaboration with Dollars (I), will update the annual Cybersecurity Awareness training to assist DoD personnel in identifying and understanding risks posed by geolocation capabilities embedded in devices and applications", he wrote.