- Strava Heat Map
- Strava CEO James Quarles released a statement following the publication of a map showing fitness-tracker use that may have exposed US military bases and sensitive humanitarian-aid sites around the world.
- Quarles said he would work with the military and the government to address potentially sensitive data, though it’s unclear how, since the data is already out there.
- The US military is reviewing its security practices after the map’s publication and its subsequent scrutiny online.
Strava’s CEO has responded after the fitness-tracking app released a global map of activity that appears to expose several sensitive US military and humanitarian relief sites around the world.
“In building [the map], we respected activity and profile privacy selections, including the ability to opt out of heatmaps altogether,” Strava CEO James Quarles wrote in a statement sent to Business Insider.
“However, we learned over the weekend that Strava members in the military, humanitarian workers, and others living abroad may have shared their location in areas without other activity density and, in doing so, inadvertently increased awareness of sensitive locations.”
Quarles wrote that he had family members in the military and that his company was “taking this matter seriously and understand our responsibility.”
Quarles committed himself to “working with military and government officials to address potentially sensitive data” as well as streamlining the privacy features and “reviewing features that were originally designed for athlete motivation and inspiration to ensure they cannot be compromised by people with bad intent.”
Can’t be undone
As is normally the case with internet publishing, once the map went up, it was most likely cached and cannot be removed. Some of Strava’s data could even be used to track the movements of individuals.
Quarles refers to his app as a tool for “athlete motivation,” but much of the data displayed in the heat map, and probably the most sensitive data, comes from people who are not engaged in athletic pursuits but have merely left the tracker on.
When US troops walk to the location of a classified Patriot missile battery designed to defend their base from enemy missiles, they’re not engaging in athletics. But the release of Strava’s heat map has now potentially exposed those journeys to the world.
Following the publication of the map and its subsequent revelations, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been briefed and is reviewing the US military’s security practices.