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After revelations that activity trackers could be revealing the locations and workout patterns of troops abroad, the Pentagon has made a decision to ban troops from wearing fitness trackers on secret bases and in war zones.
A new Pentagon order says defense personnel operating in sensitive areas such as war zones and secret bases will no longer be allowed to wear fitness trackers, smartwatches, or use activity tracking apps with geolocation enabled, Business Insider reports. The Associated Press obtained the memo, which was signed into effect on Friday.
Ultimately, military leaders will decide whether their troops can use GPS tracking where they’re stationed.
In January, it came to light that some fitness trackers and fitness tracking apps, such as Strava, were revealing sensitive military base locations. While these products and services offer private activity tracking, many left their activities public, leaving the data searchable and vulnerable to misuse.
A blanket ban on fitness trackers and activity tracking apps may seem extreme, but it seems necessary if troops are unable to use them without taking the appropriate privacy precautions. And while companies do their best to ensure data is stored securely, with the number of data breaches that occur each year, even data that users manage appropriately could be open to hackers under the right circumstances. While it’s likely a bummer for troops who want to manage their fitness or compare their workouts with that of friends and colleagues, it seems like a smart move—at least for those situated on sensitive bases.
While the ban seems to target internet-connected trackers and apps, troops hellbent on keeping track of their daily runs and steps can still use a good old pedometer (hey, it’s better than nothing).
H/T Business Insider
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.