Polar's fitness app exposed its users' sensitive location details

Polar's fitness app exposed its users' sensitive location details

If you're a Polar user and aren't keen on having your own data out there for the world to see, make sure you have your profile marked as private (which, thankfully, is the default setting).

What just happened? Another fitness company was found to be indirectly revealing the locations of personnel working for military and intelligence services.

Just six months after competing fitness tracking company Strava came under fire for revealing the location of USA military bases, Finnish wearable company Polar has experienced similar privacy concerns and has suspended its "Explore" service as a result.

"As people tend to turn their fitness trackers on/off when leaving or entering their homes, they unwittingly mark their houses on the map", Bellingcat wrote. It then becomes a very simple task to find an individual who works at a military base, including their name and what they look like, but also where they live. Users often use their full names in their profiles, accompanied by a profile picture - even if they did not connect their Facebook profile to their Polar account. But while Strava's information was only accessible via a user's profile page, Polar allowed you to select an interesting site, pick one of the profiles exercising there, and get a full workout history (going back to 2014) of that person.

The investigation was sparked by runner Foeke Postma who took an interest in a similar security leak involving Global Positioning System tracking company Strava in January.

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However, the investigation claims that despite many users making their profiles private it was able to find user details due to "an oversight in the Polar app".

Not only that, but by cross referencing their names on the app with social media sites such as LinkedIn, each app users' personal details could be accessed. In early 2017, as the Polar app freely tells us, he made a trip to the west-side of the USA and used a bike there. A total of 650,000 exercise logs were discovered in the investigation. The data collected includes heart rates, dates, times, exercise duration, and routes of runs taken.

The company has now suspended the Explore feature that enables users to publicize their activity. In a statement, the company said that it has "recently learned that public location data shared by customers via the Explore feature in Flow could provide insight into potentially sensitive locations".

After apparently being notified about the report on its flaws, Polar announced on Friday it was "temporarily" shutting down the Explore API feature, used in Flow.

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