In November 2017, the Strava fitness tracking app published a visualization map to show where users exercise across the world. However, that map also revealed location information about military bases and spy posts around the world, military analysts report.
The company lets users record running, walking, or biking activity on their smartphones or wearables, and upload it to the Internet. Military analysts noticed the map - which was constructed using more than three trillion individual GPS data points - has enough detail to give away potentially sensitive data on where soldiers on active duty are located. Users in locations like Afghanistan and Syria seem to exclusively be military personnel, they say.
"If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on and tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous," says Nathan Ruser, analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts. On Strava's map, the Helmand province of Afghanistan shows the layout of operating bases via exercise routes. The base is absent from satellite views on both Google Maps and Apple Maps.
These findings arrive the day after Data Privacy Day, which was created to encourage both individuals and businesses to respect user privacy and protect data. Strava's decision to publish sensitive location data is part of a growing discussion around how companies should handle the massive amount of information they collect on users.
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