You see several articles per year in the news about how fitbands or GPS enabled watches have potentially compromised military bases, secret deployment operations and even possibly hidden datacenters or employees at an organization.  Just read the latest Wall Street Post article and you will read about how the Global Heat Map, published by Strava which is a GPS tracking company, used information from a satellite to map locations and movements of users to the company’s fitness service over the past two-year period, and they did this by illuminating various areas of activity. Well this may have compromised secret bases and soldiers locations who have used those fitness tracking devices and apps to record their health data and statistics.

It wasn’t that long before where we saw Pokemon Go being played by soldiers in various military branches both US and Non-US and this revealed locations as well as they innocently tried to capture Pokemon but where broadcasting their locations at the same time to Niantic.  The bottom line is smart phones and GPS enabled devices that track and share locations of the users are never to be used by people working in sensitive environments where their locations should not be disclosed.  This is a huge risk, and it may not be a risk to the individual but can reveal the locations of hidden away bases, remote missions and other details.

Policies need to be created, and devices whether BYOD or Corporate/Government owned and issue need to be configured to lockdown and block risky apps and services appropriately if they are to be allowed.  Data in the cloud is always going to be compromised, you can’t ever assume anything is 100% secure and will never be cracked, hacked or stolen.  It is just a fact of life, and big data  may be too difficult for individuals to sift through and extrapolate meaningful details but AI will change all that.  AI programs will be developed to look for patterns, create estimates and compromise secrets, locations, patterns and more by ingesting all of this location data and various heat maps.

If you are someone who doesn’t like broadcasting where you are all the time, don’t use a fitband or if you are make sure all your Bluetooth, GPS and other service are disabled and keep the tracking local.  If you also work for a company (any company) it is probably best if you don’t have GPS enabled constantly giving your location inside the company building all the time as well.  Many companies ban Pokemon Go from their properties since they don’t want employee’s to have their locations broadcast or attract the attention.  Sure retail shops like restaurants, coffee shops and stores may want the attention, traffic and this is good, but not private corporate offices.  But fitness bands often are allowed and employers are trying to have employees be proactive by offering health incentives and possibly premium discounts on insurance for participating in preventative fitness programs and many which involve using apps that have GPS tracking services or location based tracking for mapping out distance and steps.

Be aware, security by obscurity is not enough to rely on.  Don’t assume that because you are one in millions nobody would bother with your location data, think outside the box and keep safety and security foremost.  For myself, I work from home and I do use a fitness app with GPS tracking, but I would not take it into a corporate office had I worked there and I do not use any GPS or mobile apps/games on my corporate phone.  I do disable GPS mode on my watch when I am not actively going out for runs/jogs, so it can track steps only.  It happens to save battery life not just prevent my location from being constantly broadcast as well.

Justin Germino
Working in the IT Industry for over 17 years starting with OS, Networking and then moving into web based technologies including authentication and online security. Dragon Blogger has unique insights and opinions to how the internet and web technology works. An Avid movie fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
Justin Germino

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