US Defense restricts use of GPS function fitness trackers in certain areas

The Pentagon has banned soldiers and other personnel from using fitness trackers or fitness apps on sensitive military bases and in war zones. According to the US Department of Defense, the data may reveal where the troops are.

It is not an outright ban; military personnel can still use the apps and fitness trackers on certain bases and in war zones, but then location sharing, and therefore the GPS function, must be turned off. This is reported by CBS, among others. The restriction doesn’t just apply to fitness trackers; all electrical devices that can reveal the location of users by means of a GPS function are subject to the new rules.

According to the Pentagon, the geolocation functionality poses a significant risk to military personnel. For example, the ministry says that personal information, locations, routines and registration numbers could be disclosed, which the Pentagon says could lead to unintended security vulnerabilities.

This decision is in response to a data visualization map from Strava. In January, it emerged that a previously posted heatmap, compiled by Strava based on anonymous data from users of its fitness app, could be used to locate secret military bases, for example. Bases missing from Google Maps were found to light up on the heatmap. The heatmap had been around since 2015, but it became a lot more detailed at the end of 2017. Strava made it easier in March to turn off location data collection.