Skip to main content

Pentagon restricts fitness trackers and other geolocators in high-risk areas

Security threats from wearables with geolocation features led the Pentagon to restrict the use of fitness trackers and other devices, according to The Associated Press.

Citing a Pentagon memo, the AP reported military leaders would make the call on mobile device use. When command staff determines the security threat level from wearables’ GPS use is too high, personnel will be banned from activating geolocation features or from using the devices at all.

Many fitness trackers and other mobile devices with geolocation functions can reveal current locations and routes to social media. Unrestricted use of devices with location features is a significant concern when personnel are in war zones or sensitive areas.

“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,” the memo said according to the AP.

The Pentagon began investigating fitness devices that reveal global user locations earlier this year. Fitness-focused social networking company Strava published The Global Heat Map using subscriber data to show where people worked out. Pentagon personnel were not pleased when it was discovered that military base locations and troop movements were inadvertently revealed.

The security threat presented by The Global Heat Map prompted predictions that use of GPS-equipped fitness devices would be restricted. The penny dropped with the recent Pentagon memo.

“It goes back to making sure that we’re not giving the enemy an unfair advantage and we’re not showcasing the exact locations of our troops worldwide,” Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning told The AP.

In May, the military instituted new regulations for cell phone use at the Pentagon itself, according to the AP. Cell phones are not allowed in areas where sensitive topics are discussed but must be left in storage containers outside secure areas.

Rules limiting cell phones in secure locations inside the Pentagon were previously in place, but the May memo tightened and added to those restrictions. Now Pentagon personnel will need to leave their fitness trackers, smartwatches, and any other devices with geolocation functions in the storage containers.

Cell phones and fitness trackers are not banned entirely from the Pentagon and other military locations, but the new regulations underscore concerns about revealing location information.

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
Fitbit Ace 3 aims to engage kids by making a game out of staying fit
Fitbit Ace 3 lifestyle

Fitness encompasses all ages, which is why it shouldn't come as a shock that companies are coming out with wearables for younger age groups. Today, Fitbit announced the Ace 3, its newest activity tracker for kids. Like its predecessors, the Ace 3 is designed to help kids get active and stay fit. The tracker's renewed emphasis on exercise is critical, especially now, when children are learning remotely more than ever. For many kids, active playground time at school has now been replaced by sedentary game time at home -- a trend most parents would like to reverse.

Parents who struggle to find new activities for their kids will appreciate the Fitbit Ace 3's gamelike approach to exercise. Kids are encouraged to reach 60 daily active minutes or 250 steps per hour. Animated watch faces change as children move closer to their activity goals and they are rewarded when a goal is reached. Kids can check their stats right on the tracker, while parents can monitor their children's progress using Fitbit's family controls.

Read more
Amazon’s new Halo fitness tracker offers body scanning, voice analysis, and more
amazon introduces halo fitness tracker with ai capabilities winter band on wrist 1

Amazon is joining the wearable fitness tracker market in a big way with a new product called Halo. 

Halo is a health- and fitness-tracking wristband that works with a smartphone app and a subscription service. To set itself apart from the crowded world of fitness trackers, Halo will have a suite of artificial intelligence-powered health features, including the ability to measure body fat percentage, analyze your tone of voice, determine how specific conversations can impact stress, and more. 

Read more
The hidden psychological drawback of fitness trackers

Smartwatches are great, not just for providing notifications without making us have to pull out our smartphones to check them, but also for our health. The Apple Watch, for example, will prompt you to get up and walk around at regular intervals, as well as alerting wearers if they have an irregular heart rhythm they should get checked out by a doctor.

But not everything about fitness-tracking smartwatches is so good for our health, claims a new report from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. It suggests that smartwatches, while providing no shortage of useful data, also increase anxiety levels. In a study of 27 heart patients who use Fitbit trackers to measure their sleep, heart rates and physical activity, the researchers found that the more people learned about their biometric data, the more anxious they became about it.

Read more