Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ban on Fitness Tracking Apps?

            Over the weekend it was discovered that the fitness app Strava has potentially revealed sensitive information regarding military bases in the Middle East. The company released a heat map detailing the activities of millions of users all over the world. Among these users are active duty US service members operating at these bases. What’s the big deal? It’s pretty easy to spot a military base from satellite imagery. The locations of these bases were already known. This map is probably just telling our enemies something they already know. However, it’s not that fact that they can locate these bases that matter. It’s the fact that they can now see the hallways and thoroughfares that soldiers are using to traverse the base. They can piece together the layout of the base and pinpoint the most important areas. Because this heat map has trillions of data points, a virtual blueprint can easily be created.

            How does this effect current counter-insurgency operations? It doesn't. What group would be able to actually use this discovery to their advantage? They might learn new locations of bases, but they couldn't get inside it. This has more serious implications against foreign governments, not insurgency or terrorist groups.

            So, should the US military just put in place a complete ban on fitness apps that track location? There’s a strong argument in favor of a ban but in reality it all depends on each situation. Military command would need to determine if allowing soldiers to use fitness tacking apps poses a threat to each individual base. For instance, most domestic bases in general probably wouldn’t have too many threats related to fitness tracking apps. However, bases in an active operational area, like the Middle East, would certainly have some related threats.

            Perhaps what the US military needs to do is leave it up to the commanding officer of each base. They would have the most understanding of the situation at their particular base and the best grasp on operational security there. They could assess their individual situations and accurately determine if a ban on fitness tracking apps would be necessary.

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