The National Security Agency is urging U.S. military and intelligence personnel to turn off location-sharing services on their cell phones to prevent security breaches. The intelligence agency warned in a bulletin Tuesday that the common app feature can pose a real threat to national security, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Location-sharing can be critical for the function of apps like Google Maps, but the information it collects about users’ whereabouts is also collected by tech companies that then sell the anonymized data to marketers and advertisers.
“Location data can be extremely valuable and must be protected. It can reveal details about the number of users in a location, user and supply movements, daily routines (user and organizational), and can expose otherwise unknown associations between users and locations,” the NSA bulletin read.
The NSA warns, for instance, that in addition to mobile devices storing location data in their own mobile device logs, cellular networks receive real-time coordinates for cell phones every time they connect to the network. That communication with the network also can make location information vulnerable. “This means a provider can track users across a wide area. In some scenarios, such as 911 calls, this capability saves lives, whereas for personnel with location sensitivities, it may incur risks,” the NSA notes in the guidance.
“If an adversary can influence or control the provider in some way, this location data may be compromised. The agency recommends giving apps as few permissions as possible and limiting web browsing on phones. The advisory also extended to fitness-tracking gear; other internet-connected tech like smartwatches and the computers found in modern automobiles, according to the New York Post.
Governments worldwide, including the U.S., have become more aggressive in collecting such data for surveillance purposes — and to locate suspects in crimes, the Journal reported.
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