- Strava CEO James Quarles released a statement following the publication of a fitness tracker heat map that may have exposed US military bases and sensitive humanitarian aide sites around the world.
- Quarles said he would work with the military and government to address potentially sensitive data, although it’s unclear how, since the data is already out there.
- The US military is reviewing its security practices after the map’s publication and its subsequent scrutiny online.
Strava’s CEO has responded after the fitness-tracking app released a global map of activity that appears to expose several sensitive US military and humanitarian relief sites around the world.
“In building [the map], we respected activity and profile privacy selections, including the ability to opt out of heatmaps altogether,” Strava CEO James Quarles wrote in a statement sent to Business Insider.
“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.”
Quarles wrote that he had family members in the military, and that his company is “taking this matter seriously and understand our responsibility.”
Quarles committed himself to “working with military and government officials to address potentially sensitive data” as well as streamlining the privacy features and “reviewing features that were originally designed for athlete motivation and inspiration to ensure they cannot be compromised by people with bad intent.”
Nowhere in the statement does Quarles apologize or accept or hint at any kind of forethought, wherein he might have envisioned negative impacts from the map beforehand.
Can’t be undone
As is normally the case with internet publishing, once the map went up, it was likely cached and cannot be removed. Anyone who gains access to Strava’s data can use it to track the movements of individuals, some of whom may be military personnel who visit classified sites.
Quarles refers to his app as a tool for “athlete motivation,” but does not acknowledge that much of the data displayed in the heat map, and likely the most sensitive data, comes from people who are not engaged in athletic pursuits, and have merely left the tracker on.
When US soldiers walk to the location of a classified patriot missile battery designed to defend their base from enemy missile fire, they’re not engaging in athletics. But the release of Strava’s heat map has now potentially exposed those journeys to the world.
Following the publication of the map and its subsequent revelations, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been briefed and is reviewing the US military’s security practices.