The fitness-tracking app Strava, which tracks users’ location and activity, unintentionally published the locations and routes associated with secret military bases around the world. The information was published in a heat map that shows the locations of users across the globe. Strava is popular among military personnel and soldiers stationed internationally for tracking and comparing workouts. Clear hot areas around known military bases are distinguishable in underdeveloped countries with fewer smartphone and app users.
However, the more troubling items are the new hot areas that do not correspond geographically to a metropolitan area and the thin lines that between them and known military bases. Not only does the map reveal secret facilities and air strips, but also the most frequently used routes for travel and cargo transport. This is information for which foreign governments and terrorist groups would kill that is now available online to anyone. The Washington Post reports that the map has been published since November but gained national attention this week after a tweet from a young twitter user in Australia.
The scenario is seemingly right out of a spy novel about potential data breaches or a dystopian film. The immediate ramifications for national security are unclear at this time, and so are the legal consequences that Strava (which is based out of San Francisco) may or may not face for unwittingly publishing such sensitive information. The public data compilation raises new questions about user privacy and safety, national security protocols, and the unintentional power that technological companies are garnering from user data.