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Pentagon restricts militray personnel from using Apple watch, geolocation services on iPhone

US military personnel can no longer use Apple Watch, geolocation services on iPhone, as usage of these apps can help the opposition track US military personnel’s location in their operational areas. So the Pentagon has banned the use of Apple watch, geolocation services on iPhone, for military personnels operating in operational areas. This decision comes at the advent of Pentagon’s review of policies concerning such devices.

The Strava fitness tracking app had accidentally revealed the location of the troops in the world. The apps heat maps were found to have helped discover the location of the troops working out in the war zones. Strava has since updated their heat map by limiting the street level details of the troops to registered users, and with trails requiring multiple users before displaying it on the map.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told that Pentagon is making sure, the enemy does not have an unfair advantage, to restrict the revelation of the exact location of the troops. The ban was first announced in a memo dated August 3rd, from the deputy defense secretary Patrick Shanahan. The memo specifies that the ban prohibits the use of geolocation features on government and non-government issued devices, services and applications, while in locations designated as the operational areas.US military has a lot of operational areas not only located in war zones like Afganistan, Syria, and Iraq, where thousands of troops are deployed. So it’s a broad ban.

The ban does not completely restrict the usage of smartphones and its accessories But does require the need to disable some relevant functions in operational areas. Combat commanders should be able to authorize the use of the devices after performing a threat based comprehensive operating survey, will surely help install some flexibility in enforcing the ban and punishing the offenders.

The move is not surprising. However, the Strava controversy served as a wake-up call for senior Pentagon officials. It also highlights the larger debate over the military’s use of technology and its handling of cyber-security. Sice many years Pentagon has been experimenting with the use of smartphones and tablets in tactical situations. Now the Pentagon’s need to deal with disconnect is much needed.

Personnel working in more visible prominent locations such as the Pentagon will not be affected by the ban.