The US Department of Defense has issued new orders to all of its branches that immediately begins restricting soldiers’ use of GPS tracking apps in places it deems to be sensitive or dangerous. 

While the new orders stop short of a total ban on the use of GPS enabled devices in “global hot spots,” any geolocation software outside of non-approved devices used for military purposes must be turned off. 

GPS enabled apps such as Strava have in the past shown the routes and training routines of soldiers within military bases. The Pentagon has now banned the use of GPS devices when soldiers are on “active-duty.”

Military chiefs believe the move is necessary to avoid gifting “enemies with information on military operations.” 

At the heart of the issue is the fact that that information stored by GPS-based services by companies such as Strava, Fitbit, and Apple, are uploaded to servers which then may be shared with third-parties, and seen by existing and potential US adversaries.   

“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,” a spokesman for the Pentagon told reporters last week.  

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is commonly found in most cellular phones and a variety of other devices, including cars and fitness trackers. 

A memo posted by the current Deputy Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan on Monday, clearly defined the new rules. All military personnel on “active-duty” are now banned from using fitness trackers or any other applications on mobile devices which utilise GPS, and any other device or app “that pinpoint and track the location of individuals.” 

“The rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities… presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally,” reads the official order. “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.” 

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