Users of fitness apps are undoubtedly familiar with one of their most discernable features: the ability to upload a route biked, ran or swam, for example, to the internet for friends and family to see. That feature has turned into a potential liability for men and women in uniform however, as sensitive information about the location of military bases and outposts all over the world have been given away by a popular fitness app.
Strava, the popular fitness tracker, released a heat map in November showing the activities uploaded to the platform. The map was detailed, showing more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on devices like smartphones and Fitbits, and the maps show popular running or biking routes in major cities, for example, and even exercisers’ patterns in more remote areas.
But over the weekend, military analysts discovered the map is detailed enough to reveal the exercise patterns of military personnel and even the broad outlines of bases their stationed on.
In countries like Afghanistan and Syria, for example, Strava seems to be used almost exclusively by active duty foreign military personnel, meaning their bases stand out brightly. The map also reveals sensitive information about bases outside of war zones as well. A map of Homey Airport in Nevada, otherwise known as the U.S. military base Area 51, is shown clearly on the map.
Strava had previously released a version of its heatmap in 2015. But in the latest version, the company touts the exponentially greater level of detail.
“This update includes six times more data than before – in total 1 billion activities from all Strava data through September 2017. Our global heatmap is the largest, richest, and most beautiful dataset of its kind. It is a direct visualization of Strava’s global network of athletes,” the company said.