Strava's Global Heatmap reveals locations of secret military bases

The company's review of 2017 showed all routes taken by its users across the world.

Strava and similar apps including Runkeeper are more social than other fitness apps, allowing users to keep track of specific routes they use to run or bike. In most cases, the apps or devices keep tabs on basic health information such as steps taken, heart rate, or sleep.

While releasing the updated heat map, Strava said that the update includes six times more data than before - in total 1 billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017.

Prompted by the observations of 20-year-old Australian student Nathan Ruser, experts weighing in on Twitter have spotted what look to be US and allied bases in Syria, French outposts in Niger, and Turkish troops on patrol in Syria.

At the weekend founding member of the Institute for United Conflict Analysts revealed just how much data shouldn't have made it on to the Strava map.

The US is not alone in being exposed - Chinese joggers in the South China Sea contributed data to the Strava map, as did workers on Taiwan's secret missile bases.

Strava allows its users to record their exercise via Global Positioning System using a phone or wearable devices like Fitbit, which have been given out to us forces in the past.

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Militaries across the world are being forced to look into their security policies after the Strava app accidentally gave away the locations of secret bases and supply routes.

A statement from the company said: "Our global heatmap represents an aggregated and anonymised view of over a billion activities uploaded to our platform".

Strava urged users in a statement to check the firm's website to understand the privacy settings.

In response to the security breach row, Strava has told users they can upgrade their privacy settings to avoid sharing data about their location.

Users can ask themselves, do I really want to share my jogging route with the entire Internet? Given that Bose was accused past year of collecting private information on the listening habits of users via its premium wireless headphones (which it denied), maybe I will steer clear. In countries like Niger, the heatmap highlights the activity of USA soldiers on military bases keeping fit.

"Anyone with access to the data could make a pattern-of-life map for individual users, some of whom may be very interesting to foreign intelligence services", he wrote in a column on the Daily Beast news site. "I expected it to languish in wonk circles and open source circles until the US government quietly fixed the problem, but instead it seems to have blown up a lot more than I would have thought".

  • Delia Davidson