Home > News

Strava’s heat map may reveal the location of secret military bases

Secret military installations may be compromised because of the publicly available data

by Tim Huebsch

Scroll through Strava’s heat map and your favourite local routes lite up. So do the populated areas of the world where there are the most activities uploaded onto the social media activity website like the eastern seaboard of North America and Europe. In what The Washington Post called a security oversight, so do some unusual locations in war zones, sensitive areas and places there are suspected military installations.

The Washington Post posted an online story on Sunday titled “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging.” How the information is coming out is through Strava’s global heat map which shows the past whereabouts of users.

The publicly-viewable heat map allows people to zoom into areas to see any sort of patterns based on fitness activity. The Post provides the example of Iraq and Syria, areas with limited data available based on user-uploaded files. “Zooming in on those brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites – presumably because U.S. soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around,” the Post writes.

Twitter user Nathan Ruser shared a series of maps outlining the locations of various countries’ bases including those of Turkey and Russia. “It looks very pretty, but not amazing for Op-Sec. U.S. Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable,” he said in the initial tweet followed by a number of self-replies.

In one photo, Ruser says that “if soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous. This particular track looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”



Analyst Tobias Schneider tweeted that “fitness and social media company Strava releases activity heat map. Excellent for locating military bases.”

The Guardian reports that one base in Afghanistan “is not visible on the satellite views of commercial providers such as Google Maps or Apple’s Maps.”

Strava have not commented on the Post‘s story.

A version of this story first appeared at runningmagazine.ca.