18:30 GMT28 October 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - In the wake of fitness app Strava lighting up exercise routes of servicemen stationed at bases across the world, the US military is likely to introduce new policy regulations on the use of electronic devices by personnel in private mode to avoid risks of making security information available publicly online, experts told Sputnik.

    On Monday, the Washington Post newspaper reported that an online map, showing the location of people using fitness tracker Strava, also displayed non-public military data on the US military bases and personnel locations by showing the active use of such devices on these sites, particularly in conflict areas, such as Iraq and Syria.

    ​The reports sparked concern that routes commonly used by personnel could be studied by outsiders rather than revealing the location of bases themselves, which are mostly known anyway. The app is mostly used in the West, and thus revealed activity at Western bases abroad, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Russian base in Syria's Hmeimim was also lit up.


    James J.F. Forest, a professor at the School of Criminology and Justice Studies at UMass Lowell University and senior fellow with the Joint Special Operations University, told Sputnik that he expects the current situation to be solved in a proper way by the US Military issuing new regulations on personal conduct when it comes to the use of electronic devices.

    "For operational security reasons I expect we'll see new regulations soon about how to use those devices safely. Overall it's a personnel conduct issue which will surely be handled appropriately within military organizations," Dr. Forest said.

    The same point of view was shared by Sarah Kreps, an associate professor in Cornell University’s Department of Government, saying that the situation with military information becoming publicly available online could be solved by new requirements urging military personnel to switch off public mode on electronic devices.

    "I think this is a matter of military regulations catching up with the technology, and the problem will be solved fairly easily by requiring that members not share their information publicly. Individuals in the military can simply opt out of the public activity mode", Dr. Kreps told Sputnik.

    Dr. Kreps added that the US Marines have already taken measures to prevent similar incidents by imposing in 2016 a policy banning wearable fitness devices on bases.


    However, experts expressed the opinion that the recent incident with Strava fitness trackers military users revealing their own and bases location was not something new for the US military.

    "One of the earlier incarnations of the problem was when Google maps included Area-51, notoriously classified military complex, and civilian drone operators followed up with private footage that they then put on Youtube," Dr. Kreps said.

    Dr. Forest also stated that for many years there were recommendations to the military personnel to keep their personal data private.

    "Beginning years ago, military personnel have been advised not to share certain kinds of personal information in their Facebook or other social media posts including deployment locations, companions, etc., mainly for reasons of operational security. This newly reported stuff about the Fitbit watches seems to fall within the same category," expert added.

    Dr. Kreps noted that incident with making available online locations of military bases via using fitness trackers demonstrates how technological advancements were putting military troops’ security at risk because of civilian technology moving more quickly than its regulation.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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