Mattis Reviewing Ban On An “Array of Electronic Devices” At All Defense Sites

Strava’s Global Heatmap tracks activity of its app users via GPS. (Strava)

The head of the U.S. Department of Defense is reviewing a ban on an “array of electronic devices” at the Pentagon and all other DoD locations according to a press conference held today.

Gen. James Mattis is considering limits on wearable devices that use tracking applications (GPS) used by employees and service members. The possible ban could include smart phones and popular fitness devices.

The review is precipitated by a report that a fitness application called Strava revealed sensitive military information through a heat map. According to an announcement from the Defense department, along with articles in the Military Times and other publications, the Strava heat map showed where troops were jogging at a base in Turkey.

A much wider problem, and the trigger for the review, is that Strava and other apps are conjoined with social media platforms. These connections multiply a dangerous potential for adversaries to gather military secrets.

“We take these matters seriously,” said Army Col. Robert Manning III. He added that “we are reviewing the situation to determine if any additional training or guidance is required, and if any additional policy must be developed to ensure the continued safety of DoD personnel at home and abroad.”

This excerpt from C4ISRNET, a publication devoted to military intelligence, details the implications.

The bigger, specific question is what else Strava knows that isn’t on the heat map. And more broadly, the bigger danger is what happens when every technologies vital for everyday life record that information and share it widely. Strava accounts are linked to Facebook, Google, or email, and depending on the sign-up method, by simply making the account a user gives Strava the same data about their connections already siloed away in a social network.

It’s not known when Mattis will complete his review.