Se­na­tors seek an­swers from Strava over fit­ness app’s pri­vacy re­veals

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Bart Jansen

“Strava has failed to demon­strate that it takes these con­cerns se­ri­ously.” Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Christo­pher Coons, D-Del. In a let­ter to the com­pany ex­press­ing their pri­vacy con­cerns

WASH­ING­TON – Top se­na­tors are ques­tion­ing whether fit­ness app Strava is do­ing enough to pro­tect users’ pri­vacy after it in­ad­ver­tently revealed the lo­ca­tion of mil­i­tary bases and move­ments in war zones world­wide, po­ten­tially putting troops — and na­tional se­cu­rity — at risk.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Christo­pher Coons, D-Del., sent a let­ter to Strava on Wed­nes­day about pri­vacy con­cerns over show­ing where troops ex­er­cise with the app or through Fit­bits, Garmins or other de­vices that re­lay their lo­ca­tions to Strava.

“This in­for­ma­tion could jeop­ar­dize users’ per­sonal safety in var­i­ous ways, in­clud­ing re­veal­ing a user’s daily ac­tiv­i­ties, fre­quented lo­ca­tions, and sen­si­tive health in­for­ma­tion,” the let­ter from the top mem­bers of the Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee on pri­vacy, tech­nol­ogy and the law said. “The im­pli­ca­tions of mak­ing this in­for­ma­tion widely avail­able could even im­pact na­tional se­cu­rity by re­veal­ing the where­abouts of sen­si­tive lo­ca­tions.”

Strava as­sem­bled ex­er­cise in­for­ma­tion from about 27 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants and ag­gre­gated it anony­mously into an in­ter­ac­tive “global heat map” that showed where peo­ple have been ex­er­cis­ing for the past two years. The map be­came avail­able in Novem­ber and widely pub­li­cized in Jan­uary.

Be­cause mil­i­tary bases of­ten are in re­mote lo­ca­tions, the map had the un­in­tended con­se­quence of high­light­ing troops’ lo­ca­tions. While Strava said it would take steps to sim­plify pri­vacy set­tings, the se­na­tors ques­tioned the com­pany’s ef­forts.

“Strava has failed to demon­strate that it takes these con­cerns se­ri­ously,” Flake and Coons said in their let­ter. “Strava’s fit­ness app makes it very dif­fi­cult to opt out of un­wanted data-shar­ing. ... It seems that many con­sumers are ei­ther con­fused by Strava’s opt-out pro­vi­sions or sim­ply un­aware of what in­for­ma­tion is be­ing tracked.”

In a state­ment Jan. 29, Strava CEO James Quar­les said the com­pany would sim­plify pri­vacy set­tings on equip­ment orig­i­nally de­signed for ath­letes to share in­for­ma­tion rather than dis­trib­ute in­tel­li­gence to “peo­ple with bad in­tent.”

“In build­ing it, we re­spected ac­tiv­ity and profile pri­vacy se­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to opt out of heat maps al­to­gether,” Quar­les said.

“How­ever, we learned over the week­end that Strava mem­bers in the mil­i­tary, hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers and others liv­ing abroad may have shared their lo­ca­tion in ar­eas with­out other ac­tiv­ity den­sity and, in do­ing so, in­ad­ver­tently in­creased aware­ness of sen­si­tive lo­ca­tions.”

The Depart­ment of De­fense said it was re­view­ing its poli­cies on smart­phones and wear­able de­vices.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.