Friday, February 9, 2018

Beware If You Run With Fitness Apps

I never ever run with my phone nor my watch nowadays. Definitely not an activity tracker. It is usually a 3-4 km jaunt (longer if I'm lucky), quick as I can for it keeps me sane.

Now it makes me glad that I never use any apps like MapMyRun, RunKeeper or Strava especially. Strava got itself into the news for all the wrong reasons this week.

Strava was first popular with cyclists, now it's also embraced by runners. It can be connected to devices like Fitbit. It is like Facebook for athletes where you can track your distances covered and share photos. You can see the popular cycling routes of other cyclists, follow your friends's running routes. You need to share your location data to get the most out of it. That's where there is your privacy trade-off.

By publishing its "heat maps" which showed it's users' routes, Strava allowed a college going kid from Australia to figure out military bases locations all over the world. Including sensitive areas in the volatile Syria, Afghanistan and other middle east regions. The worse bit was that names and heart rates of the users could be figured out as well.

Other than national security issues, it should also be a reminder to users that data collected by fitness apps reveal a lot about you and where you move around. All that data doesn't always remain on your phone.

If you use any fitness trackers and any mapping apps and plan to continue using it, make sure you learn how to protect yourself and your data as much as you can. My suggestion is not to post your workout maps on social media. It will be easy to tell if you run the same route over and over again, especially if you start and finish at your home.

Maybe a little paranoia from a mum and female runner, but better to be safe than sorry.

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