Side Note

Military bans fitness trackers for revealing defense secrets

The Pentagon is banning Fitbits and other fitness devices that use geolocation data, according to an announcement Monday, because soldiers wearing those devices have accidentally revealed the locations of secret military bases abroad. The only Fitbits that will be allowed are those that commanders have deemed necessary and that have location services disabled.

In 2013, the Pentagon threw its full support behind Fitbits, which it believed would keep soldiers healthy. It gave out 2,500 Fitbits for free to soldiers. But the Pentagon has been reviewing its support for Fitbits and other fitness devices since January 2018, when soldiers wearing Fitbits started appearing on public maps even though their locations were supposed to be top secret.

A particularly big issue for the military has been the Global Heat Map, which is published by GPS company Strava with the intent of highlighting the spread of joggers around the world. Strava uses data from 27 million users of devices like Fitbit and Jawbone to illuminate the most-trafficked jogging regions, but in its most recent edition of the map, it unintentionally lit up secret military bases — allowing potential combatants to figure out not only where soldiers live but where they run and congregate.