Our defence force and their locations must be protected at all costs. Scouring for locations safe enough for our military personnel is a difficult enough task as it is.
Now however, a fitness app has exposed our military sites, putting Australian soldiers at risk.
It’s a grave reminder of the need for privacy in the connected world.
Fitness app, Strava, tracks the location and fitness habits of users, placing the information on a worldwide map of collected data.
This means that military personnel around the world might be clearly outlining where they are and what they’re doing, simply by staying fit.
The issue was exposed thanks to an eagle-eyed Australian student. According to SBS News, 20 year old Nathan Ruser is studying securities at Australian National University.
He was the first to point out the potentially deadly flaw in the app.
He tweeted, ‘I shouldn’t be able to establish any Pattern of life info from this far away.’ Accompanying his tweet was an image off the Strava app with clear activity at a military base, believed to be primarily hosting US soldiers.
It’s a glaring example of a world where oversharing has become the norm.
Soldier safety and security is most important
According to Tech Crunch, this isn’t the first time the app has come under fire for its privacy settings. The app could be leaking data even if a user has selected the heightened privacy setting.
But maybe this issue is a sign that harsher restrictions on data sharing need to come from higher up, rather than being left to the individual companies.
According to SBS News, this may lead to a ban on all smart watches, and fitness tracking devices within the military.
CNN reports that the US Army had issued over 20,000 Fitbits to soldiers in 2015. But this new privacy breach may not only mean just removing smart watches.
Smartphones are able to collect the same data that apps like Strava use to track participants.
Australia Defence Association spokesman Neil James expressed the difficulty of censorship in the digital age. He told AAP ‘In World War II, all you had to do was censor peoples’ letters’, whereas now the internet has created countless new methods of communication.
At the end of the day, the safety of Australian soldiers is paramount. For now, it is up to the Australian Defence Force and legislators to find a way to protect them without intruding on their freedoms.