Singapore: Ministry of Defence says banning fitness tracking apps not an option


Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has said that there are no plans to ban the use of fitness tracking apps by National Servicemen inside training premises. This comes after reports stated that fitness tracking apps, such as Strava, threaten national security by revealing military locations and movements in countries worldwide.

Mindef told Today Online that all technology-based fitness trackers and their usage inside premises are governed by guidelines on personal electronic devices. This is enough to ensure the security of information as well as the training and operation procedures.

"The measures prevent the transmission of location of servicemen to ensure their safety and security during such operations and training", said the ministry, as reported by Today.

Mindef also added that the risks are not valid in Singapore as the location of its military headquarters and training premises is already known publicly. Hence, the app does not leak any new sensitive information that can lead to a terror strike.

Moreover, the defence ministry and SAF urge military personnel to use these fitness tracking apps to regulate their exercise routine daily. These apps help servicemen to keep fit as they give immediate feedback on their running speed and distance, says the ministry.

"For now, these important benefits outweigh any risks that the fitness trackers may pose," it added.

However, Mindef made it clear that the safety guidelines are subject to change. The ministry and SAF will monitor the trends that these location applications are following and revise their privacy guidelines so that the security of the armymen, as well as the secrecy of their operations, remains uncompromised.

Strava launched their global visual heat map in November 2017 to display exercise routes. However, the app also shows military personnel running or exercising with their smartphones or fitness trackers, such as Fitbit.

After the security breach was revealed, Strava has given a statement saying that the heatmap excludes "activities marked as private and user-defined privacy zones." CEO James Quarles also stated that they will review privacy settings and ensure that sensitive information is not leaked to troublemakers.