The new measure is most likely caused after a heatmap, generated by the activity of users of the fitness app Strava, revealed the locations of USA military bases in foreign countries.
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 restrictions were issued some six months after the location and movements of USA troops were included in a usage map published by the Strava fitness tracking company. At the time, the map showed activity from 2015 through September 2017.
In cases where these capabilities pose a "threat to personnel and operations", commanders and supervisors will provide OPSEC training and "apply a tiered structure for categorizing location and operations sensitivity while incorporating risk factors to ensure restrictions are consistently and rationally applied", the memo states.
At the time, the Pentagon insisted that the classified or sensitive locations of US service members had not been compromised by the data.
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US troops and civilian Defense Department employees are now prohibited from using geolocation features or functionality on government-issued and personal devices while in locations identified as "operational areas", according to a new memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered a review of personal electronics and fitness trackers afterward and initially left open the possibility that the use of electronics in stateside locations such as the Pentagon could be drastically curtailed.
Global Positioning System tracking company Strava released an interactive map in November 2017 that showed where the users of fitness devices are around the world.
Notably, the policy's language allows service members to continue tracking their workouts on a device like a Fitbit, as long as the geolocation feature is turned off. Shanahan's memo also gave the military's combatant commanders guidance on how to seek authorization for the use of geolocation features should they deem it necessary.
"It goes back to making sure we're not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we're not showcasing the exact location of our troops worldwide", Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said on Monday, according to CNN.