Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Polar's fitness app reveals the location of USA military bases

Polar's fitness app reveals the location of USA military bases

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.

The revelation on the application from Finnish-based app Polar Flow comes months after another health app, Strava, was found to have showed potentially sensitive information about USA and allied forces around the world.

Polar has temporarily suspended a feature on its Flow platform, after it was revealed the app's privacy settings allowed for access to potentially sensitive information of some of its users.

The reports examined more than 200 of these "sensitive" locations and found details of over 6,490 high-risk individuals across 69 nationalities, including locations in Russian Federation and Afghanistan.

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According to De Correspondent, only about two percent of Polar users chose to share their data, but that nonetheless allowed anyone to discover potentially sensitive data from military or civilian personnel.

While Strava simply highlighted where its users exercised without revealing any names (meaning that anyone looking to track an individual's movements would also have to do some cross-referencing work), Postma reports that Polar's social platform, Polar Flow, gives all of a user's personal information in one place. Tracing all of this information is very simple through the site: find a military base, select an exercise published there to identify the attached profile, and see where else this person has exercised.

"As people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map", Bellingcat wrote. "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.

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

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Worse, individual data goes back to 2014, and is displayed by Polar on a single map of the world.

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

Making your data really private on Polar Flow used to require a number of non-obvious steps, which most users apparently either didn't know about or didn't bother with.

Postma noted that even when users tighten privacy controls for sharing their exercise routines with others, the Polar website still leaks a considerable amount of data.

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Given that this would make it spectacularly easy to kidnap these people or even blow them up, it's not surprising that Polar has taken evasive action.

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