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Untappd, a popular beer-rating app, can easily be manipulated to identify and track military and intelligence personnel, according to a report in the investigative open-source journalism and research outlet Bellingcat.

Zoom in: In one case, Bellingcat located an individual who “checked in” multiple times from Camp Peary, commonly known as “The Farm” — a highly restricted Virginia military base where CIA operations officers are trained in spycraft.

  • This person then “checked in at military locations throughout the Middle East, and has logged an additional 700+ check-ins at 500+ unique locations,” according to Bellingcat. 
  • In another case, a user uploaded a photo of beer — with military documents lying on his or her desk.

The bottom line: Digital trails make surveillance of individuals much easier than in the past. For government officials, using even harmless-seeming apps — like ones that rate beer! — can provide foreign intelligence services with massive troves of information useful in tracking top-tier espionage targets.

Between the lines: The trend is gradually rendering it impossible to conduct the traditional kind of human spying, say intelligence officials. Now, spies have to “hide in plain sight,” accept that their identities may be known and rely on superior tradecraft to keep their work secret.

Go deeper

NSA releases guide on data dangers posed by devices and apps

Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

The NSA on Tuesday released a detailed guide on the dangers that cellphones, Internet of Things devices, social media accounts, and vehicle communications may pose to military and intelligence personnel.

The big picture: There are a whole host of ways devices like smartphones can be used to track individuals’ every move, and the NSA concludes that ditching them may be the only surefire way to avoid tracking by a determined adversary.

UNC race conscious admissions process upheld by judge

Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can continue its race conscious admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could end up in the Supreme Court after the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vowed to appeal the judge's ruling that UNC didn't discriminate against against white and Asian American applicants in its policy that it said was designed to increase diversity.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.