Polar fitness app exposed location of soldiers and government agents

09 July, 2018, 19:07 | Author: Kara Nash
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Just six months after competing fitness tracking company Strava came under fire for revealing the location of USA military bases, Finnish wearable company Polar has experienced similar privacy concerns and has suspended its "Explore" service as a result.

The Flow fitness app produced by the Finnish sports activity tracking firm Polar has been found to reveal users' sensitive location data, according to the investigative news service Long Play, the Dutch online news service De Correspondent and the online citizen journalism group Bellingcat. The security concerns arose from the fact that anyone could use the map to find sensitive installations and see if any users' workouts end at these locations.

In a similar incident, Strava found itself in hot water in January: it released a heat map showing the fitness activity of its users from around the world, which was an attempt to highlight its active user base - but it inadvertently made it possible to figure out how people move around sensitive locations like foreign military bases.

With only a few clicks, a high-ranking officer of an airbase known to host nuclear weapons can be found jogging across the compound in the morning.

This isn't the first time a tracking app has come under fire for potentially revealing military bases and staff routines.

The individuals whose personal addresses were discovered included employees from the United States' National Security Agency, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters and MI6 as well as Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU.


Being able to identify service personnel who are often not in uniform so as not to attract terrorist attention and potential attacks through the Polar site poses grave risks, Postma warned.

Civilians using the feature could also be targeted by people wanting to locate them.

Postma noted that even when users tighten privacy controls for sharing their exercise routines with others, the Polar website still leaks a considerable amount of data. There also seems to be no time limit on the information being shared, with data available as far back as 2014.

Nevertheless, Polar said it has temporarily suspend the Explore API. It added that there had been no breach of private data and that it is now "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".

And as this comment, and a further Polar statement, suggests, this is a little different to the Strava episode, in which data wasn't automatically set to private.

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