Fitness app revealed data on military, intelligence personnel

Polar’s fitness app made it dangerously easy to track soldiers and secret agents worldwide

Now, according to Foeke Postma of Bellingcat, it seems that Polar - fellow fitness company and maker of the first wireless heart rate monitor for athletes - is revealing similarly sensitive data an an even more unsafe and accessible way.

It allows users to track their fitness and sleep activity, analyze their progress, set fitness targets and get guidance, and connect with other fitness enthusiasts.

Back in January, popular fitness app Strava released what it called a "Global Heat Map" - a visualization of two years of location and exercise data from Strava's users.

The company Polar has acknowledged the sensitivity of the data and chose to temporarily suspend feature that helps keep track of users.

These included spies and secret agents working at MI6 and GCHQ, as well as the White House. Dutch news site De Correspondent and social-media-investigation site Bellingcat have published the results of a joint investigation into Polar's practice of publishing users' workouts on an online map that, until recently, anyone could search.

Polar monitors heart rate, location, route, date and time of the training, the information can be shared on the social platform. That's partly because people often turn their fitness trackers on or off when they're close to home, unwittingly revealing where they live.

The case of the Finland-based company bears many similarities with that of fitness tracking app Strava, which involuntarily exposed the possible locations of many sensitive sites and military personnel on secret missions in combat zones. "We also learned the names and addresses of personnel at nuclear storage facilities, maximum security prisons, military airports where nuclear weapons are stored, and drone bases", the De Correspondent reporters noted.

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"We found the names and addresses of personnel at military bases including Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Arbil in Iraq, Gao in Mali, and bases in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Chad, and South Korea", the report said.

Polar ultimately made a decision to disable the map on its website, preventing others from recreating this research. But these default settings were only introduced in August 2017.

In other words, according to Polar, the "Airmen involved in the battle against the Islamic State" who Bellingcat researchers were able to identify and find their homes were the ones who messed up, not Polar.

However, the investigation claims that despite many users making their profiles private it was able to find user details due to "an oversight in the Polar app".

Fitness company Polar was forced to suspend its activity map after it was used to unmask some 6,500 military and intelligence officers, including those at nuclear sites, in combat in Syria and stationed at the North Korean border. And you can see where those runs start and stop.

That's not all; Polar also lets you view the entire exercise history of a user since 2014.

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