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

No running sign

The Explore component of Polar Flow was meant to show anonymous data on its users and their activities around the globe, displaying it in a similar fashion to the activity map that was responsible for Strava's woes earlier in the year.

As Bellingcat reports, it carried out a joint investigation with journalism platform De Correspondent and discovered people wearing Polar devices while exercising have revealed "intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world" without even realizing it.

Polar is the manufacturer of such popular running watches as the Polar M200 and M400, as well as fitness-oriented smart watches like the Polar M430 and M600, while its Polar Flow app is used to organize and view user data. "All this activity was accompanied with a time-stamp, his exact route, his heart-rate, and the amount of calories he burned". By analyzing the start and end points of workouts, it is reportedly possible to locate the homes of users.

Not only that, but by cross referencing their names on the app with social media sites such as LinkedIn, each app users' personal details could be accessed. As a result, some 6,500 unique users have been identified.

While the app has been most popular in the West, investigators claimed they managed to unearth the identities and home addresses of the Russian military in Crimea.

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And as this comment, and a further Polar statement, suggests, this is a little different to the Strava episode, in which data wasn't automatically set to private.

Polar told De Correspondent that less than two percent of its users have publicly available logs.

The practice was in effect for over three years and only ended in August last year when the company made the most private option its default setting.

And, as we saw from Strava during a similar privacy issue, Polar has responded to the findings within Flow by temporarily shuttering the Explore feature. It added that there had been no breach of private data and that it is now "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". But a fitness app called Polar has inadvertently revealed more than the answer to that philosophical question; it's also leaked the locations of military bases and other secret areas. Now the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings and are not affected in any way by this case.

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