Fitness tracking app Strava accidentally revealed the location of a secret U.S. Army base due to the program’s GPS capabilities tracking the movement of soldiers using the app.
The Guardian reports that fitness tracking app Strava may have revealed sensitive information about a secret U.S. Army base. Strava released a data visualization map which shows fitness activity and running maps recorded by users. The November 2017 map revealed 3 trillion individual GPS data points uploaded to Strava by users. It was then noted by military analysts that certain routes tracked on the map revealed sensitive information and location details of military personnel using the app. This was first noted by Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts.
Ruser stated that the heat map generated by Strava “looks very pretty” but is “not amazing for Op-Sec [Operational Security]. US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.” Ruser continued to say, “If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous.” Rusher highlighted one particular track saying that it “looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”
If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous. This particular track looks like it logs a regular jogging route. I shouldn't be able to establish any Pattern of life info from this far away pic.twitter.com/Rf5mpAKme2
— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) January 27, 2018
Analyst Tobias Schneider also commented on the map saying, “In Syria, known coalition (ie U.S.) bases light up the night. Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures come Monday morning.” It would appear that users of the app based in Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Syria are almost exclusively military personnel, which means that military bases stand out as a stark contrast amongst the surrounding areas.
The new heatmap released by Strava was an update of their map from 2015, Strava announced that “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.”
Strava noted a number of visible events and locations on the heatmap, such as the route of the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain and the Ironman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, but the company did not comment on any military locations. They did note one desert location, discussing the Burning Man festival saying “The unique pentagonal pattern of Burning Man’s pop-up city is forever etched into the Heatmap, thanks to all the runners and cyclists who have used Strava to explore it.”