Military base locations revealed by soldiers' Strava fitness tracking data

Image Strava

While the locations of military bases are generally known, there are concerns about the level of activity it reveals about personnel inside and around the bases.

"Imagine how many similar data sources are out there we're ignorant of (because) it's not posted online", he wrote on Twitter.

The issue was first raised by Nathan Ruser, a 20-year-old global security student at the Australian National University.

Ruser said on Twitter: "If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially unsafe".

What went unnoticed until the last weekend was the fact that the app might have been used by the people working in the U.S. army, with their jogging routes getting uploaded to Strava's servers. However, some areas are unknown locations, which probably mean that they are secret outposts where American soldiers and other military personnel operate.

We reached out to Strava for comment regarding the discovery, who responded: "Our global heatmap represents an aggregated and anonymized 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. Furthermore, users of the app do have the option to make their activities public or private, and Strava says it has never included private data in its maps. Unlike many online publications, we don't have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic. Phone GPS coordinates aren't terribly accurate but collect enough data points and you can assemble a map of anything, eventually.

He also pointed on Twitter that it was possible to locate jogging routes for soldiers, who had the app on for tracking during these activities, which is risky.

In a series of tweets, Ruser highlighted concentrations of activity had been recorded throughout 2017 in remote locations such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, making it possible to locate these bases.

Air Force Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told the Washington Post that the military was looking into the implications of the Strava map.

According to the Washington Post, the United States military is looking into the situation.

Manning said the review would look at the use of all wearable electronics and smartphones. In countries like Niger, the heatmap highlights the activity of USA soldiers on military bases keeping fit.

But among the three million Global Positioning System data points released are military bases in Afghanistan and Syria.

Further, although user identity is not public information, Strava Labs, the maker of the app, has access to this data and therefore so potentially do hackers, points out the Daily Beast.

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