The Flow fitness app produced by the Finnish sports activity tracking firm Polar has been found to reveal users' sensitive location data, according to the investigative news service Long Play, the Dutch online news service De Correspondent and the online citizen journalism group Bellingcat.
The vulnerability that allowed virtually anyone to identify individuals working at top-secret locations, such as military bases overseas, by sifting through exercise regimens of people in that area, has been jointly reported by Bellingcat and the Netherlands' De Correspondent.
This included the location details of soldiers and secret agents.
Fitness gadget company Polar offers a range of heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, and Global Positioning System sports watches.
However, with enough digging, Polar's tracking info also exposes its users' names and home addresses. So someone exercising on a military base will not only reveal where the base is, but also where they live as fitness trackers are typically turned off when entering a home, and turned back on when leaving it several hours later (and usually overnight).
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Polar has acknowledged that the Explore feature could be used to provide insight into potentially sensitive locations, but blamed users for sharing their data. Tracing all of this information is very simple through the site: find a military base, select an exercise published there to identify the attached profile, and see where else this person has exercised. 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.
"We were able to scrape Polar's site. for individuals' exercise at 200-plus. sensitive sites, and we gathered a list of almost 6500 unique users", researcher Foeke Postma wrote. On Friday, the company issued a statement in which it said that it did not leak users' private information and that there had been no data breach affecting private data.
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.
While the app has been most popular in the West, investigators claimed they managed to unearth the identities and home addresses of the Russian military in Crimea.
We reached out to Polar for comment on the reports, who responded: "All your profile, training sessions and activity summaries are all set to private by default".
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