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Fitness Map Appears To Reveal Military Base Activity

30 January 2018

While the app does offer users the option to regulate or even turn off data sharing, most users chose to keep their data trackers on to take full advantage of the app's services.

The Global Heatmap was released at the beginning of November, at which time its creators were boasting that it was the "largest, richest, and most handsome dataset of its kind" (a sentiment enemies of the United States will definitely agree with).

The heat map shows more than three trillion individual Global Positioning System data points and one billion activities ever uploaded to Strava. Those features are what allow apps like Strava to create personalised maps of historic activity.

Although military base locations are well-known, popular routes taken by soldiers - inside and outside of military bases - can be discovered.

"In terms of strategic stuff, we know all the bases there, we know a lot of the positions, this will just be some nice ancillary data", said Lafoy.

If anyone were to hack Strava, he said, they might be able to connect a particular user with a particular route. Another report in the Guardian points out that the Strava app also reveals locations of USA bases in Afghanistan as soldiers are the sole users of the app in these areas.

The app details American bases in Syria and Iraq, a French facility in Niger and a UK RAF military site located in the Falklands.

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Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Vitofit, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile phone application. This sensitive information could be used to track the running routes and identify locations where personnel are deployed.

"That needs to be communicated much better from higher-ranking officials to the people that are actually doing the runs and taking their afternoon jogs around the base", he said.

The heatmap is built up from a billion activities and three trillion pieces of location data, and it reveals the location of bases in the US, Syria, Australia and numerous other countries.

Scott Lafoy, an open-source imagery analyst, told CNN it's too early to truly assess how useful the data is. And this can't really be put on Strava, as the app is upfront with the data it collects.

The global heatmap contains more than 1 billion activities logged on Strava from 2015 through September 2017.

The map, which had been available online since November a year ago, used data uploaded by users to create a heatmap of jogging and cycling routes.

Strava urged users in a statement to check the firm's website to understand the privacy settings.

Fitness Map Appears To Reveal Military Base Activity