Pentagon releases order that restricts use of location-tracking devices

DF-ST-87-06962 The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense. DoD photo by Master Sgt. K...

With debates about online security and data hacking becoming more relevant than ever in the recent news cycle, federal authorities are now increasing their awareness about the subject. U.S. military troops and Department of Defense personnel that handle sensitive information will not be allowed to use software that reveals their location, such as apps in fitness trackers or cellphones.

The order was sent by the Pentagon through a memo. It specified that these individuals would not be allowed to share their location with devices on some occasions. Military leaders will now be able to decide whether or not this function must be turned off in a determined base or area, and they will be given a set of criteria for making that decision.

The memo where the order was specified stated:

The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities (e.g., fitness trackers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and related software applications) presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally. These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DoD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission.”

Some of the personnel who aren’t in these types of areas will not be required to turn off their location functions, mainly the ones that aren’t in international operation areas. The latest regulations come merely half a year after scandals about Fitbit devices being used by hackers to create a global map of troop locations and bases. A similar restriction was made in May, where employees working in the Pentagon were instructed to only use their cell phones in certain places of their office. The restriction was not aimed at banning cellphones from the office entirely, but rather only at places where important information is being held.

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