An investigation by independent Dutch news platform De Correspondent has revealed how popular fitness app Polar is exposing the addresses of its users – including military and intelligence staff exercising in sensitive locations, such as military bases, embassies and nuclear weapons storage sites – for all the world to see.
In January, Nathan Ruser, a young writer at the Australian Strategic Policy Unit, discovered fitness app Strava’s global user heatmap could be used to determine the location of military bases and other sensitive locations in remote areas and conflict zones — and the exercise routes of personnel based at such installations. His serendipitous finding made headlines around the world, and was a major public relations disaster for the company.
However, the information Polar routinely disgorges is significantly more revealing, publishing more data per user more accessibly. Anyone wanting to find out the exercise routes taken by staff at military or intelligence installations anywhere in the world — and when they typically exercise, and for how long — need merely search for users in a sensitive area. While Google has a strict policy of not marking — and often obscuring — secret locations on its Maps and Earth provisions, no such impediment is evident in Polar’s own mapping.
Moreover, it’s possible to see where else certain users have exercised — making military and intelligence personnel’s private residences extremely…