Belgium reviewing smartphone use by troops, including in Baltics

Belgian troops will be deploying to Estonia in 2019.
Belgian troops will be deploying to Estonia in 2019. Source: Reuters/Scanpix

In order to counter potential espionage and data-tracking, especially by Russia, Belgium's Ministry of Defence is reviewing restrictions on the use of smartphones by deployed active-duty soldiers, Belgian media reported on Saturday.

A review is underway of all Belgian military, and troops operating in the Baltic states, including those along the Russian border, should no longer be allowed to use their smartphones in "certain regions and circumstances," Belga News Agency said.

"We've been investing in prevention and awareness for several years, but it does not appear to be enough," Col. Carl Gillis, head of operations for the Belgian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, told public broadcaster VRT. "We know that Russia is interested in this kind of mobile geolocation data."

Geolocation uses mobile phone GPS as a way to locate devices, and as a way to counter spying, other nations have banned their troops using some GPS-enabled devices or applications while on overseas deployment.

Early next month, 250 Belgian troops are scheduled to deploy to Estonia as part of an allied multinational battalion.

Last year, the Netherlands warned about the risks of a physical training activity tracking app collecting data on troops and military intelligence personnel from a total of 69 countries.

This January, the Pentagon also reviewed the rules of use for Strava, another sports activity-tracking app, due to concerns about it revealing data on military movements at US military bases around the country. 


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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