Whether it’s our phones, our fitness trackers, or even something as innocuous as a dating app, much of the technology we use on a regular basis tracks our physical location.
Knowing the potential security risk this poses, the Pentagon banned deployed military personnel from using tech with active location-tracking features.
“Effective immediately, Defense Department personnel are prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality on government and non-government-issued devices, applications and services while in locations designated as operational areas,” says a new policy memo signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
The decision looks like a response to a recent high-profile incident. “Heat maps” generated by the Strava fitness app reportedly revealed the location of secret military and spy bases. A Strava data-visualization map showing app users’ workouts made U.S. bases “clearly identifiable and mappable,” according to an analyst.
“It goes back to making sure we’re not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we’re not showcasing the exact location of our troops worldwide,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters this week. “This is all electronic devices that have geolocating features, basically GPS-enabled devices, applications, that type of thing.”
No, you won’t have to give up your iPhone
Don’t worry too much if you’re a deployed military personnel and dedicated gadget lover, however. While employees must disable geolocation features, they can keep their devices.
If you can switch off the tracking features, you’re safe to keep using your iPhone or Apple Watch. For details about how to stop iOS apps from tracking your location, you might want to start with this handy guide from my Cult of Mac colleague, Killian Bell.
When personnel inevitably get caught breaking the new rules, commanders will have some wiggle room in terms of dispensing punishment.
“It would depend on how egregious the infraction was obviously, but again, commanders are given some latitude within the policy,” Manning told reporters.