Pentagon reviewing military use of exercise trackers

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is doing a broad review of how military forces use exercise trackers and other wearable electronic devices, in the wake of revelations that an interactive, online map can pinpoint troop locations, bases and other sensitive areas around the world.

Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that the review will determine if there should be additional training or restrictions on the use of the devices, such as Fitbits.

The Global Heat Map, published by the GPS tracking company Strava, uses satellite information to map the locations of subscribers to Strava's fitness service. The map shows activity from 2015 through September 2017.

Heavily populated areas are well lit, but warzones such as Iraq and Syria show scattered pockets of activity that could be caused by military or government personnel using fitness trackers as they move around. Those electronic signals could potentially identify military bases or other secure locations.

The Global Heat Map was posted online in November 2017, but the information it contains was only publicized recently. The issue was first reported by The Washington Post.

Manning said he was not aware of any compromise to U.S. security by the map and he did not believe there was any move yet to ban the devices. He also said he wasn't aware of any Pentagon effort to reach out to the company or request that the data be taken off line.

The Defense Department already has policies and guidelines for the use of social media accounts and other technology.

"The rapid development of technology requires constant refinement of policies and procedures to enhance force protection and operational security," said Manning. He said department personnel receive training and are advised to place strict privacy settings on their wireless devices and social media accounts. Also, those devices are not allowed in certain department locations, including classified areas.

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