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Polar fitness app exposed location of soldiers and government agents

11 July 2018

Polar has suspended its Explore feature and will likely release an update to address privacy concerns.

Investigators at Dutch news website De Correspondent and Leicester-based site Bellingcat were also able to identify the names of personnel at these sites, The Daily Telegraph reports.

This is so because the investigation team could precisely disclose the name, picture, and homes of Polar Flow app users residing in secretive locations "such as intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world".

Among them are United States 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.

The map, which has since been taken down, allowed anyone to search other people's workouts by location.

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The investigation zeroed in on two hundred sensitive locations and, using site scraping techniques, found 6,460 individuals across 69 nationalities.

The journalists analyzed the data of those users that on the map were located in regions of military bases.

Polar shows all the user sessions, starting in 2014 all over the world on one map. Moreover, they often limit the number of exercises that can be viewed.

Bellingcat illustrated the insecurity of the app by displaying a map showing exercises of servicemen at a military base in Mali, West Africa.

The bulk of the blame is also on Polar because they're making it easier for nefarious elements to have access since everything is public by default. The profile shows his full name.

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Polar responded to De Correspondent and Bellingcat's reporting by announcing that it was temporarily taking the workout map down. 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.

In a statement sent by Polar chief strategy officer Marco Suvilaakso, the company said it "recently learned that public location data shared by customers via the Explore feature in Flow could provide insight into potentially sensitive locations". 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.

Falling short of acknowledging its responsibility for the potentially disastrous data leak, Polar instead pinned the blame on the users themselves, noting that "the decision to opt-in and share training sessions and Global Positioning System location data is a choice and responsibility of the customer".

Emphasizing "the choice and responsibility of the customer" after your company has been exposed for recklessly sharing user data with potential bad actors is not a great look!

Keep that in mind the next time you head out for a run.

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Polar fitness app exposed location of soldiers and government agents