U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis to voice concerns about the collection of location data of U.S. servicemembers abroad.
The Senators’ letter follows news that the U.S. military is reviewing the use of wireless devices, like Google’s Android, at military facilities after revelations that fitness trackers can reveal the locations and identities of individuals working in sensitive areas.
Recent written statements from Google to Congress expose the risk of mapping data automatically collected through Wi-Fi networks compromising the location of military bases and other sensitive facilities.
While Google has a “nomap” feature that disables a Wi-Fi network from being mapped, enabling it requires proactive opt-in from Wi-Fi network owners, many of whom may not be aware such an option exists.
“For servicemembers using Android-based phones, there is a strong likelihood that most users are sending precise location and activity data to Google, and, by extension, all divisions of its parent company, Alphabet,” wrote the Senators.
“In an era of increasingly contested cyber domains, we could be unknowingly allowing our adversaries to map DoD networks for cyber intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and operational preparation of the environment.”
Cotton and Blumenthal requested Mattis respond to questions about Department of Defense (DoD) policy on enabling “nomap” features for Wi-Fi and other wireless entities on military bases and elsewhere. Additionally, the Senators requested information on steps DoD has taken to address the growing threats posed by location tracking devices.