Strava will refresh its heat map every month to clear it of data that recently went private

Image: Strava

The workout social network Strava is still attempting to respond to privacy oversights that led to the exposure of military bases around the world earlier this year. The company announced multiple changes to its heat map today, including the restriction of data viewing to anyone but registered users. The heat map also won’t display routes with little activity and will only populate once several different users have worked out in the area. The map will also refresh monthly to clear any data that might have been made private.

None of these changes seem super helpful for avoiding the exposure of low-profile locations. Researchers can always register to view data, and assuming a group of people work out at a military base and run the same routes with Strava, their data will make it to the heat map. The monthly clear is nice, though, and will at least erase data for people who have changed their mind about sharing their location.

More important than Strava’s heat map updates is its adjustment to its opt-out option for the heat map. Rather than requiring multiple clicks, a toggle for the heat map is now visible on the first page of privacy settings. These are helpful adjustments from Strava’s end, but on the consumer side, if you work on a restricted campus and want to keep places like the layout of a military base hidden, don’t use location tracking in general and definitely avoid location tracking publicly.

Update 3/13, 3:56 PM ET: Updated to clarify the headline and that Strava’s heat map displays no private data or personally identifiable information.

Comments

This was perhaps the most overblown technology story in years. Every military entity said it had no impact on what they share, and if something truly were top secret, people wouldn’t be allowed to have devices that track them to begin with.

As someone who uses Strava heavily the reporting on this story was so incredibly overblown. Strava never included private activities on their heatmap.

Additionally, if your location is "top secret" then you shouldn’t upload it to a social network to begin with.

The workout social network Strava is still attempting to respond to privacy oversights that led to the exposure of military bases around the world earlier this year.

It seems you should make a note that the outrage is more focused on the heat maps ability to plot out heavily trafficked areas of these bases rather than just exposure of locations. The idea that Strava is the reason for the exposure of military bases is a little ridiculous.

I also don’t know how useful this information is to militants in Afghanistan where an attack on a military base isn’t likely to go well for them.

State actors have this information already simply by nature of being able to take satellite photos.

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