Location Services: OFF

Earlier this year, following a report that “highly sensitive information about the locations and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases” had been exposed by fitness devices, the Department of Defense (DoD) conducted a review of the issue.  Last week, DoD issued new restrictions on the use of geolocation features and functionalities in operational areas (OAs); the new restrictions appear to be an outgrowth of the earlier review.

Specifically, in an August 3 memo from Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the Department of Defense (DoD) banned personnel from “using geolocation features and functionality on both non-government and government-issued devices, applications, and services while in locations designated as [OAs].”  Outside of OAs, DoD has ordered the heads of DoD Components to “consider the inherent risks associated with geolocation capabilities on devices, applications, and services, both non-government and government issued, by personnel both on and off duty.” When there is a threat outside of OAs, commanders and supervisors will provide training and guidance, and “[s]hould apply a tiered structure for categorizing location and operations sensitivity while incorporating risk factors to ensure restrictions are consistently and rationally applied.” 

In announcing the new geolocation restrictions, Shanahan described that “[t]he rapidly evolving market of devices, applications, and services with geolocation capabilities (e.g., fitness trackers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and related software applications) presents significant risk to Department of Defense (DoD) personnel both on and off duty, and to our military operations globally. 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 also calls for DoD’s CIO and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to develop geolocation risk management guidance and training for commanders and heads of DoD Components by September 3.   

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