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.
Fitness-tracking app Strava offers virtual spy hole onto U.S. bases, troops’ movements and linked identities https://t.co/9sy1Fh11bh pic.twitter.com/RWFLhB0iSj— The Japan Times (@japantimes) 30 января 2018 г.
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.
"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.
PERSONAL DATA VULNERABILITY NOT A NEW PROBLEM FOR MILITARY
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.
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.