POLAR FITNESS, purveyor of high-end fitness trackers, has announced it's suspending its Global Activity Map functionality 'Flow' following concerns over privacy.
Researcher Bellingcat and Dutch news site De Correspondent have revealed the results of a joint investigation which show that the social layer of the app is so flawed that they were able to get the home addresses of military personnel and spies without blinking.
It goes like this: find someone who is starting and stopping their runs outside a sensitive address, find where else they are starting and stopping runs and, chances are, it's going to be at home.
Most users will have given their real name for their profile, and so with a bit of social engineering (hey - you're Mr Robot!), you can work out exactly who it is and with very little further investigation, mine their social networks.
The team has revealed a list of around 6.5k users - some in Iraq and even North Korea and some very senior managers at companies, which they've tracked down using this method.
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.
If this all sounds familiar, it's very similar to a problem discovered in rival sporting app Strava which was actually showing people running around military bases in near real time.
Polar has already added a "delete my activity" button for all-in-one fixes, and the "explore" part of Flow is completely gone.
This is just the latest chapter in a long-standing saga. Inherently, the fitness tracker model is unsafe because it came about before we really understood the level of possible creepiness involved.
A number of big names have already ditched the fitness sector - most recently Nokia Health was sold back to Withings.
Now we're becoming more aware of incidents like the Cambridge-Analytica scandal, we're increasingly discovering that things we didn't think about enough before are a ruddy nightmare. μ
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