Posted on: February 7, 2018
Fitness trackers do their job so well that they might be a threat to national security.
Last week, a report broke that the journeys made by people with some fitness trackers could be searched by anyone online. These heat maps were tracked and released by Strava, with the intention of showing runners and bikers some of the most popular routes and paths used by others.
However, people wearing their tech while doing day-to-day activities were also mapped, and many of these people were active military members.
By looking at the heat maps online, anyone could see who was walking where, including while inside military bases. Plenty of heat maps are available for the US and Europe, two areas with a large US military presence. But there was also information online showing the routes of some military personnel in Afghanistan.
This information can be used by anyone who wanted to ambush any of these US military bases or personnel. By knowing the daily habits and routines of military members, they could easily plan a coordinated attack.
Fortunately, the heat map released by Strava isn’t live, so it can’t be used in real-time – but it does show all info from September 2015-2017, meaning two years’ worth of information could be used to determine present habits and patterns.
In response to the realization of Strava’s impact on the military, the Pentagon has started a broad review of exercise trackers. There are even reports that the Pentagon is considering banning cell phones in the entire complex to protect information.
Strava’s heat maps were released with no ill-intention, only to serve people who want to see popular routes for exercise. But the amount of information collected and released begs the question – does technology threaten national security?
For now, perhaps the best approach is to remain vigilant. The US military caught on to the potential dangers of heat maps before news broke, meaning they found the potential problem before the general public realized what could be done with the information. But there’s no telling what can be done with the existing heat maps that made it online.
Information is more widely accessible now than it ever has been, and technology is still picking up its pace. Be aware of any threats to your private information any type of technology can have – even if the company of the technology isn’t aware of the potential damage they could do.