Fitness app Polar Flow, exposed sensitive locations, home addresses — report
Polar, the Finnish brand best known for its heart rate monitoring equipment and wearables, has had to temporarily suspend its Explore feature, due to reports of location data being exposed.
Various fitness apps, such as those from Garmin and Strava, allow users to share their sporting activities among friends, or even the public in the aim of making fitness buddies, however Polar’s app, Flow, publicizes “more data per user in a more accessible way, with potentially disastrous results” according to a report by Bellingcat.
Investigations made by Bellingcat and De Correspondent found that they were able to find “6,460 individuals across 69 different nationalities,” working out likely at their home addresses through their exercise habits.
This could be done by looking at past routes on a single map, which may seem harmless enough, however Bellingcat claims that “Polar is not only revealing the heart rates, routes, dates, time, duration and pace of exercises” but “[a]s people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map.”
The investigation also notes that this can be particularly hazardous to those in military services as the data led the reporters to discover secure locations, social media profiles and home addresses of soldiers, spies and other important figures.
A statement from the company last week, confirms that public location data “could provide insight into potentially sensitive locations” however they claim it is not the case for all users as “there has been no breach of private data.” However, the Bellingcat report states that despite that “User ID’s connected to “private” runs are easily retrievable, meaning it is still possible to connect exercises at different locations to one person.”
Meanwhile, Polar explains that its “goal is to raise the level of privacy protection and to heighten the awareness of good personal practices when it comes to sharing GPS location data.”
Updates to Explore will be made and the brand will keep Polar Flow customers informed of the next steps. The latest updates can be seen on the support page. JB
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