Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is considering banning all cell phones and personal electronic devices such as FitBits from the Pentagon, defense officials confirmed Wednesday.
Mattis had considered banning the devices before last weekend’s revelation that data from smart phones and watches, such as FitBit, had been aggregated in a way that revealed detailed location and personnel data on bases worldwide. The security incident brought more attention to the review, officials said.
Over the weekend, GPS tracking app Strava released a global heat map from users’ personal devices to produce an overlay of popular running paths.
Mattis has directed the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Joseph D. Kernan and the Pentagon’s chief information officer to review current security policies concerning the devices.
Cell phone use at the Pentagon will be part of the larger review to look at the vulnerabilities created by wearable technologies. Even if they are not hacked, the devices can transmit location and other personal data if a user has not selected appropriate security settings.
If the devices are banned it could have a profound impact on the more than 22,000 civilians and service members who work at the Pentagon each day.
Many of the personnel at the Pentagon use mass transit, such as the area’s subway system, to get to work and rely on the smart phones during their commutes. It was not immediately clear how DoD would be able to enforce a ban on the devices, including whether it would mean they would need to screen each employee on a daily basis.
This story has been updated to correct the name of the Under Secretary for Defense for Intelligence.
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."