Deploying? Leave that Fitbit at Home

NGAUS Washington Report
Aug. 7, 2018

Deployed troops will have to leave their Fitbits, Apple watches and other “geolocation devices” at home. A Defense Department policy announced Monday also forbids any device or app that tracks the location of the user.

Col. Robert Manning III told reporters at the Pentagon, “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.”

A Pentagon release says deployed personnel are in operational areas, and commanders will make a determination on other areas where the policy may apply.

The release notes that the market for such devices has “exploded over the past few years,” and many troops wear devices to track their workouts, running pace and the like. But these devices upload the information to a central server where third parties can access it. The concern is that the enemy will get the information and know the whereabouts and perhaps routines of troops in hazardous places.
Manning said, “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.”

The use of GPS devices in overseas areas “potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” Manning said.

The policy also covers personal phones and portable devices that contain apps that rely on GPS technology. Commanders are responsible for implementing the policy.