Fitness app reveals locations of secret military bases

Strava, the fitness-tracking app which relies on the smartphone GPS to track a user’s exercise sessions, which includes cycling, running finds itself the subject of controversy.

According to reports, a heat map shared by Strava, which shows the exercise activity of its users across the world, has ended up revealing secret military bases for the US and other countries as well. The app lets users post their activities on the social network and also follow others, who are into the same fitness activities on the app. The map, which was first shared by the company in November 2017, includes a total of one billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017.

The heat map also shows 3 trillion latitude and longitude points and includes around 10TB of raw input data, according to the company’s original post. The issue of secret military bases being leaked by Strava’s map was pointed out by analyst Nathan Ruser on Twitter, according to news reports from The Verge and Guardian.

Ruser is a founder member of Institute for United Conflict Analysts and he said on Twitter, “Strava released their global heatmap. 13 trillion GPS points from their users (turning off data sharing is an option). It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.”

Ruser goes on to point out that it not just US military bases which are revealed online by Strava’s heat map. The maps makes it possible to see other bases including Russia’s military bases, those in Afghanistan, and Turkish patrols North of Manbij in Northern Syria. According to Russer, the map can be used to figure out known military bases. He also pointed on Twitter that it was possible to locate jogging routes for soldiers, who had the app on for tracking during these activities, which is dangerous.

The Strava map can be used to figure out regular routes that are taken by them and puts them at considerable risk, especially for those posted in combat locations. In a statement to The Verge, Strave said “the map is an aggregated and anonymised view of over a billion activities uploaded to our platform.”

The company says activities which are marked as private are not part of the global heat map. Another report in the Guardian points out that the Strava app also reveals locations of US bases in Afghanistan as soldiers are the sole users of the app in these areas.