Polar’s popular fitness app inadvertently revealed military personnel’s addresses

Not good

The man had used his real name - revealing him to be a senior military officer - while the app revealed details of his other runs, exposing what is thought to be his address.

The Explore component of Polar Flow was meant to show anonymous data on its users and their activities around the globe, displaying it in a similar fashion to the activity map that was responsible for Strava's woes earlier in the year. Since the controversy surfaced, Polar has issued a statement denying the charges of any data leak and suspending its Explore API to prevent further issues.

The specific details such as the route taken, and the fact that it's publicly available, is where security concerns arise, since a significant number of users are military or government personnel.

We can find Western military personnel in Afghanistan through the Polar site. Now, investigative site Bellingcat has released an article stating that the Polar fitness tracker is an even worse security risk.

While Strava simply highlighted where its users exercised without revealing any names (meaning that anyone looking to track an individual's movements would also have to do some cross-referencing work), Postma reports that Polar's social platform, Polar Flow, gives all of a user's personal information in one place.

The Explore component of Polar Flow was meant to show anonymous data on its users and their activities around the globe, displaying it in a similar fashion to the activity map that was responsible for Strava's woes earlier in the year.


"Polar, a fitness app, is revealing the homes and lives of people exercising in secretive locations, such as intelligence agencies, military bases and airfields, nuclear weapons storage sites, and embassies around the world", researchers reported after a joint investigation between Bellingcat and Dutch journalism platform De Correspondent. Unlike similar functionality to Garmin and Strava, Polar publishes more data every user.

As part of its response, Polar seems to have shut down its Explore API for the time being and has promised to "raise the level of privacy protection and heighten the awareness of good personal practices when it comes to sharing Global Positioning System location data".

"In contrast to Polar's app, there is no indication that people whose profiles are set to private can also be identified in these apps", they added.

"As always, check your app-permissions, try to anonymize your online presence, and, if you still insist on tracking your activities, start and end sessions in a public space, not at your front door".

The shutdown should be welcomed, but the company has squarely pointed the finger at its users, noting that "the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings, and are not affected in any way by this case".

Given that this would make it spectacularly easy to kidnap these people or even blow them up, it's not surprising that Polar has taken evasive action.

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