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    U.S. Military Barred From Using GPS Devices While On Missions

    Military personnel prohibited from using geolocation features and functionality, applications, and services while in locations designated as operational areas.

    Pentagon has announced last year that U.S. military troops have been barred from using Global Positioning System (GPS)-tracking devices while deployed on operational missions. According to a Memo from Patrick Shanahan, the deputy Secretary of Defense, devices, application and services with geolocation capabilities are posing significant risk/threat to the military personnel on and off duty.

    Geolocation capabilities can expose vital information such as personal information, current locations, routines, and numbers of defense personnel besides, can create unintentional security breaches and subsequently amplify risk/threat to joint force and mission. Effective immediately, Defense Department personnel cannot use devices with geolocation features while in locations designated as operational areas.

    Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Robert Manning III announces the policy on geolocation devices at the Pentagon, Aug. 6, 2018. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
    Operational areas are places where the military troops are deployed for a specific purpose or mission. For example, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq or Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. This announcement follows stories that have hit the headlines earlier this year that fitness apps such as Polar Flow and Strava have been carelessly giving away locations and habits of U.S. service members on installations around the world.

    However, the memo indicated that combatant commanders may permit the use of geolocation features on non-government devices, applications, and services in operational areas only after conducting a comprehensive threat-based Operations Security (OPSEC) review. With the ever fast-changing technology today, cyber-security awareness and training should regularly be updated to assist military personnel and security departments in identifying and understanding risks posed by geolocation feature embedded in devices and applications thus preempting otherwise eventual consequences.

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