Fitness App Reveals Too Much Information

Nathan Ruser is a student at the Australian National University. When he was looking at information on a blog about cartography, he noticed a heat map from the fitness app Strava. The image that Mr. Ruser saw, showed the activity that occurred at the Bagram Military Base in Afghanistan. Alarmed that this information could be dangerous, Mr. Ruser alerted the authorities.

The Strava app makes use of a phone’s GPS system. The exercise activity of the user is tracked. The app user is then able to use the data assembled by Strava to see how his/her fitness compares to others whose information is also collected by the app.

Stava also makes heat maps that show where its members are active. For example, their jogging routes are displayed.

When soldiers in military installations around the world make use of this particular app, their information is recorded, and a heat map can be made of the activity. The heat maps do not show real time use.

United States military officials are analyzing the situation to see what the implications are for US forces. One military spokesperson stated that the location of most military bases are known. However, there are other implications. If an enemy could detect the route that several soldiers used on a regular basis and at certain times, the enemy might be able to utilize this information in planning an attack that would cause the maximum number of causalities.

There are ways that the personal fitness information can be blocked. The Strava app does allow a privacy mode that is activated by the user. It is also possible that the US military may prohibit the use of these type of apps especially by troops who are stationed in highly-sensitive areas of the world.