Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

Polar Fitness App Accidentally Maps Locations of Military Bases, Nuclear Warehouses

Not good MASHABLE
Anna Jefferson | 11 July, 2018, 12:43

A joint investigation from De Correspondent and Bellingcat has revealed that Finnish company Polar's fitness app Polar Flow exposed the geolocation details of its users. The number of fitness trackers on the market, from Strava and Runkeeper to many others, suggests that the answer is no.

Fitness app Polar is revealing the homes and fitness regimes of people exercising in secretive military locations, including Guantanamo Bay and the North Korean border. "For most users who set their activity tracking records to public, posting their workouts on Polar's so-called Explore map is a feature and not a privacy issue", says tech news site ZDNet.

Using the map, the publications also found 200 sensitive locations: 125 military bases, 48 nuclear weapon storage facilities, 18 intelligence agencies, a smattering of drone bases, embassies, nuclear power plants and royal residencies and a police academy.

We can find Western military personnel in Afghanistan through the Polar site.

Wireless fitness band maker Polar Electro Oy has suspended a public workout-sharing feature after it was found that the location data could be used to track soldiers and spies on military bases.

The information comes from a detailed investigation by the Dutch De Correspondent and open source investigative site Bellingcat. So someone exercising on a military base will not only reveal where the base is, but also where they live as fitness trackers are typically turned off when entering a home, and turned back on when leaving it several hours later (and usually overnight).

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"We are analyzing the best options that will allow Polar customers to continue using the Explore feature while taking additional measures to remind customers to avoid publicly sharing Global Positioning System files of sensitive locations", Polar said in the statement.

Among them are USA troops in Iraq, Syria, Guantanamo Bay, those deployed to the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, staffers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and NSA, military intelligence and cyber security specialists and many others stationed at bases in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

What this is actually saying is that users have the option to mark their data as private via the user profile page in the app. Marking it private will also prevent the service from sharing information to third-party apps such as Facebook.

It has denied that any private data was leaked.

"As always, check your app-permissions, try to anonymize your online presence, and, if you still insist on tracking your activities, start and end sessions in a public space, not at your front door".

We reached out to Polar for comment on the reports, who responded: "All your profile, training sessions and activity summaries are all set to private by default". It also connects with the company's own heart-rate monitor, and results can be compared with others' via the company's Polar Flow social platform.

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