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Fitness trackers and apps pose no ‘added security risks’ to Singapore: Mindef

SINGAPORE — While fitness tracking devices and data derived from them do not pose additional security risks to Singapore, there are specific instances when their usage would be restricted given the need to maintain operational and information security, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Friday (Feb 2).

SINGAPORE — While fitness tracking devices and data derived from them do not pose additional security risks to Singapore, there are specific instances when their usage would be restricted given the need to maintain operational and information security, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Friday (Feb 2).

Responding to queries from TODAY following reports that a popular fitness app has leaked location data of military bases and personnel activity around the world, Mindef said it had also conducted its own risk assessment of such devices openly available on the market.

The study concluded that information from these devices did not pose additional security risks. Mindef gave no details about the scope of its study or when it was conducted.

“In the context of a city state like Singapore, the information derived from these devices could also be obtained from other open sources and did not pose any added security risks,” Mindef added.

But the ministry acknowledged the changing capabilities of these devices, and said it would introduce “appropriate measures” when necessary to maintain the security of operations and training.

Mindef’s comments come after Strava, a fitness app, posted a map of its users’ activity and unwittingly revealed the locations and habits of many military bases and personnel, including those of US armed forces in Iraq and Syria.

The app, which calls itself “the social network for athletes”, allows millions of users to time and map their workouts. Users can post them online for their friends to see, and it can track their movements at other times. The app is particularly popular with young people who are serious about fitness.

Mindef said fitness trackers can be used on premises belonging to the ministry or the Singapore Armed Forces, as long as stipulated restrictions are followed.

However, that there are specific instances - both locally and overseas - which “require restrictions to maintain operational and information security”.

“These measures include the mandatory safekeeping of such devices at designated storage areas prior to the conduct of sensitive or classified operations or training to prevent the transmission of information,” said the ministry.

Mindef pointed out that the use of the fitness trackers and tracking applications have been useful in helping servicemen take charge of their personal fitness, adding: “These trackers enable servicemen to track their speed and distance covered during their runs, and provide useful immediate feedback as well as monitor the progress of fitness to the servicemen.”

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