January 17, 2020 Feature

No Place to Hide: Privacy Implications of Geolocation Tracking and Geofencing

By Ashley Thomas

In 2017, Strava, a fitness tracking mobile app, released a heat map showing the physical movements of its users from around the world as a result of the app accessing the user’s mobile phone GPS to track when and where a user was exercising.1 The app enables users to check their fitness performances and compare them with others. As a result of the release of this heat map, it was revealed that this information made it very easy to ascertain the locations of military bases and routines of military personnel. While U.S. military bases around the world are relatively well known, the routines and patterns of military personnel generally are not known, nor does the U.S. military, for obvious reasons, want that information to be made public. By analyzing this heat map, one could easily discover commonly used exercise routes or patrolled roads from military bases in combat zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Not long after this story made news headlines, the Department of Defense released a new policy prohibiting the use of GPS functions in deployed locations.2

Premium Content For:
  • Science and Technology Law Section
Join - Now