Polar Fitness Trackers Reveal All About Military Personnel

No running sign

Bellingcat's investigation identified people working at the FBI, the NSA, Americans in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Russian soldiers in Crimea, troops on the North Korean border, individuals serving on submarines, and military personnel working in missile defense and cyber security to name but a few.

Just six months after competing fitness tracking company Strava came under fire for revealing the location of USA military bases, Finnish wearable company Polar has experienced similar privacy concerns and has suspended its "Explore" service as a result.

Polar, like many other fitness apps, lets users log a map of their run. However they also managed to uncover information that was not part of the affected users' public profiles.

Fitness gadget company Polar offers a range of heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, and Global Positioning System sports watches. According to the investigation, the app's activity tracking map (named "Explore") exposed the home addresses of thousands of users, including soldiers and secret agents.

This could be done by looking at past routes on a single map, which may seem harmless enough, however Bellingcat claims that "Polar is not only revealing the heart rates, routes, dates, time, duration and pace of exercises" but "a$3 s people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map".

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In a similar incident, Strava found itself in hot water in January: it released a heat map showing the fitness activity of its users from around the world, which was an attempt to highlight its active user base - but it inadvertently made it possible to figure out how people move around sensitive locations like foreign military bases. It then becomes a very simple task to find an individual who works at a military base, including their name and what they look like, but also where they live.

The individuals whose personal addresses were discovered included employees from the United States' National Security Agency, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters and MI6 as well as Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU.

A spokesperson for Polar UK said: 'All profile, training sessions and activity summaries are all set to private by default.

"It is important to understand that Polar has not leaked any data, and there has been no breach of private data". In a statement, the company said that it has "recently learned that public location data shared by customers via the Explore feature in Flow could provide insight into potentially sensitive locations".

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