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Fitness app revealed data on military, intelligence personnel
11 July 2018, 12:43 | Silvia Roy
Running data from the popular Polar Flow app could show sensitive military details
"We are analyzing the best options that will allow Polar customers to continue using the Explore feature while taking additional measures to remind customers to avoid publicly sharing Global Positioning System files of sensitive locations", the company said.
Nathan Ruser, a member of the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, pointed out how examining remote areas on the map which display a high concentration of exercise could give away the location of secret bases and military operations. However, it's more to make you aware of what data these sorts of devices and services collect and may share publicly if you're not very vigilant about you use them. De Correspondent and Bellingcat's journalists started by looking at workouts logged near known sensitive locations.
Security researchers in the Netherlands said Sunday they were able to find data on some 6,000 individuals including military personnel from dozens of countries and employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency.
Fitness company Polar was forced to suspend its activity map after it was used to unmask some 6,500 military and intelligence officers, including those at nuclear sites, in combat in Syria and stationed at the North Korean border.
For users signed up to this service, Explore has tracked every activity since 2014 and, considering this wealth of data, it was apparently relatively easy to determine details like a user's home address and the perimeter of a military base that doubles as a jogging route. Moreover, they often limit the number of exercises that can be viewed.
The firm added that it had been aware that the potential existed for sensitive location data to appear in public information, saying that it had made a decision to temporarily suspend the Explore API, which allows users to share information about training sessions. Thus, effectively, you can navigate to any location of your choice, select a profile, and get the entire history of that individual.
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The company said users can opt out of having their profiles shared with the public. The problem, as De Correspondent and Bellingcat discovered this week, is that someone can use these maps to learn more about your life than you may have wanted.
"We recently learned that public location data shared by customers via the Explore feature in Flow could provide insight into potentially sensitive locations", read the statement in part.
The shutdown should be welcomed, but the company has squarely pointed the finger at its users, noting that "the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings, and are not affected in any way by this case". Now the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings, and are not affected in any way by this case.
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