Deployed US service members are going to have to ditch their “geolocation devices” in response to a new memo from Deputy US Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

This includes physical fitness aids, applications in phones that track locations, and other devices and apps that pinpoint and track the location of individuals.

After fitness data service Strava revealed bases and patrol routes with an online heat map (shown above) the US military has reexamined its security policies for the social media age.

“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 US Army Col. Robert Manning III told Pentagon reporters today.

Deployed personnel are in “operational areas”, and commanders will make a determination on other areas where this policy may apply.

The market for these devices has exploded over the past few years, with many service members incorporating them into their workout routines. They use the devices and applications to track their pace, running routes, calories burned and more. These devices then store the information and upload it to central servers where it can be shared with third parties. That information can present enemies with information on military operations.

“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 according to an official release.

These Global Positioning System capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines and numbers of DoD personnel. Their use in overseas locations “potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” Manning said.

Personal phones and other portable devices also contain apps that rely on GPS technology, and they will be affected. Commanders will be responsible for implementing the policy, and they will be allowed to make exceptions only after conducting a thorough risk assessment.

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Jonathan

It’s very scary that even a forward think governmental organ like the US DOD is so far behind the curve in regards to the future world view of the technology companies and leaders, these guys are ( the the technologists) are lead us into a brave new world that no one apart from them really gets or will truly profit from, and the politicians who should be the guardians of the future of our society just can’t keep up with.

Julian

Agreed. In this case it’s quite ionic given how much of the US high tech industry was kick-started by US DoD funded projects.

I’m not even sure that they’ve fully closed the door on this one. I often get asked by my phone to turn on my WiFi because it can increase locational accuracy. Most modern phones can also triangulate their location from known WiFi access points so even a non-GPS-enabled device could potentially get a location fix without GPS enabled if it could see at least 3 suitable WiFi access points especially if it was infected with malicious malware. (https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/how-does-turning-on-wifi-improve-the-location-accuracy-of-a-device.html)

BB85

Its mental the amount of information phones consume without people realising. I had a work colleague talking about buying a security camera for their house, then without ever googling it when they visited a website the targeted advert from amazon had a security camera on it. The only way we could figure it out was the phone picked up our conversation. Apparently David Cameron kicked out a minister from a cabinet meeting when his phone went off in the meeting because their policy to put them in a sealed box before entering the room because they know full well they… Read more »

Julian

Unless your colleague was a person of interest to the security services, who then decided that breaking the OSA to sell the intercepts on to commercial organisations for advertising purposes was a good idea, then the security camera advert was either a coincidence (they do happen, I’ve had some amazing ones in my life) or your colleague had done something related to security cams beforehand (maybe visited another site to check prices or discussed them in Gmail). The technology simply doesn’t exist to do that level of mass surveillance and then post-process it to extract meaning with that level of… Read more »

BB85

I’m not talking about government level surveillance, but the likes of apple, google, amazon definitely track and build their analytics based on every individual users who has signed into an app on their phone. There is no reason to believe that microphones do not pick up every single conversation to pick up target words like I need to buy a xxxxx and store it for marketing purposes. I know there has been a lot of change in the last couple of months regarding privacy and data sharing etc, but before that and probably still today every input and speech would… Read more »

Julian

Yes, but not talking about government surveillance makes it even more unlikely because commercial organisations trying to use speech processing for targeting adverts need to target way more people with correspondingly fewer computational resources per person being monitored compared to government level surveillance. A commercial organisation being able to capture all conversations overheard by presumably a huge number of people’s mobile phones and doing the necessary natural language processing to reliably extract buying signals is utter fantasy with today’s technology. It’s not down to privacy, it’s down to the technology not being there yet. Data analytics where the semantic context… Read more »

Glass Half Full

This is the real problem “These Global Positioning System capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines and numbers of DoD personnel.” IIRC it was a European investigative team that used one or more of the sports apps correlated with other social media sources like Facebook and LinkedIn to personally identify individuals in sensitive intelligence and military job positions. I can’t find the original article to link to. However, the method used was to identify activity at a secure location, i.e. military base or intelligence HQ, then identify the home location for that individual by observing exercise tracking from a residential… Read more »

bob carlisle

For the size of US dod they should use their own OS and have their own app’s for training plus others for anything else needed, so all data can be kept on DoD owned servers. This would give staff the technology to use apps and keep it privet, it could also be expanded to use as a form of reporting and monitoring for command. Trying to just ban it won’t work in the long run, giving them DoD versions of most used apps will allow them to get same benefits but without the risk