Defense Department officials are studying security issues raised by physical conditioning trackers that also can be used to track service members’ whereabouts, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning III.
The review will determine whether new policies are needed, according Manning, who briefed reporters at the Pentagon Jan. 29. The review will be led by Essye B. Miller, the Pentagon’s acting chief information officer.
At the same time, the Defense Department urges service members and DoD civilians with wearable electronic devices to use the strictest privacy setting. Officials made the suggestion after publication of a “heat map” showing concentration of U.S military personnel overseas.
The alarm comes from a “heat map” posted by Strava — the makers of a fitness tracking application that shows the routes service members run or cycle in their daily exercises. These maps can show military bases and may be used to target individuals.
“We take these matters seriously, and we are reviewing the situation to determine if any additional training or guidance is required, and if any additional policy must be developed to ensure the continued safety of DoD personnel at home and abroad,” Manning.
Wearable electronic fitness trackers upload data to Strava, which then publishes a heat map of the activity so people can download the maps to find good running or cycling routes. Such devices are also popular with many people eager to monitor and increase their physical activity throughout the day.
“The rapid development of technology requires the rapid refinement of policy and procedures to enhance force protection and operational security,” Manning said. “DoD personnel are advised to place strict privacy settings on wireless technologies and applications.”
Service members are prohibited from wearing such wireless technologies in some operational areas.
All DoD personnel must take annual training on cybersecurity which includes the dangers of revealing personal information on the internet and social media sites.
“Furthermore, operational security requirements provide further guidance for military personnel supporting operations around the world,” he said. The heat map incident re-emphasizes the need for service members to be cautious about what data to share via wearable electronic devices, Manning said.