Polar Fitness App Accidentally Maps Locations of Military Bases, Nuclear Warehouses

Polar’s fitness app made it dangerously easy to track soldiers and secret agents worldwide

Many runners give their real names and profile pictures on the app, allowing someone to gather a slew of information on soldiers or government agents who use Polar fitness trackers. Unfortunately, in doing this, the company made it incredibly easy to map out and identify sensitive militaristic locations, from US bases to Turkish patrol areas.

Polar is the manufacturer of such popular running watches as the Polar M200 and M400, as well as fitness-oriented smart watches like the Polar M430 and M600, while its Polar Flow app is used to organize and view user data.

Polar Flow this time - has gone a step further and revealed the names and home addresses of almost 6,500 users.

The journalists involved in the investigation looked at "two hundred sensitive locations and found 6,460 individuals across 69 nationalities" on Polar's map, allowing them "to identify military and intelligence personnel by name, then find out exactly where they and their families live". Furthermore, changing your privacy settings in the app only affected new workouts - if you'd had your previous workouts set to "Public", they'd still be public even after you changed your privacy settings, according to Bellingcat.

Worse, individual data goes back to 2014, and is displayed by Polar on a single map of the world.

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By analyzing public training sessions near military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies, and other training sessions made by the same users around the word, investigative outfit Bellingcat and Dutch news site De Correspondent have identified 6,460 individuals who have tracked their sports activities at or near sensitive locations.

It is important to understand that Polar has not leaked any data, and there has been no breach of private data. 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".

Naturally, this will lead to stricter guidelines for personnel at such facilities as to which devices they can and can't use for fitness tracking. You can also make the maps publicly available so other people can see where you're hitting the pavement. Like with every other app that has one hand in your personal data and the other in the internet, you should always err on the side of caution when doing things like creating a profile or sharing your location. However, if in the meantime you'd like to batten down the hatches just in case, he advises doing things like creating a profile that doesn't reflect your actual identity and monitoring your app permissions. The number of fitness trackers on the market, from Strava and Runkeeper to many others, suggests that the answer is no.

For more information on this issue and how to combat it, check out Bellingcat's article here.

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