Polar Fitness Suspends 'Explore' Aspect of App Due to Privacy Concerns

By Kate Hadley — Published July 09, 2018

Polar Fitness Suspends 'Explore' Aspect of App Due to Privacy Concerns

Polar, a Finnish wearable company, up until recently have been known for popular running and smart watches such as the Polar M200, M400, M430 and M600. Polar's Polar Flow app has entered the limelight recently as the 'Explore' aspect of the app, which is a global activity map, has been suspended due to privacy concerns.

De Correspondent and Bellingcat conducted a joint investigation and discovered that the 'Explore' aspect of the Polar Flow app displays data which allows locations of secret military sites to be discoverable as well as where both soldiers and spies live. In addition, they also found that the app also exposes users' names and home addresses. Because each user can be identified according to their activity, reporters were able to use this information to figure out a user's home address. What's more, Polar failed to put a cap on the amount of API requests which in turn, means that the amount of data that is available is vast.

Explore has tracked activity since 2014 and both De Correspondent and Bellingcat managed to uncover information on 6,40 users of 69 nationalities including "military personnel, intelligence operatives, and people who work at sites where nuclear weapons are stored." Bellingcat's Foeke Postma wrote "we were able to scrape Polar's site (another security flaw) for individuals exercising at 200+ of such sensitive sites, and we gathered a list of nearly 6,500 unique users. Together, these users have made over 650,000 exercises, marking the places they work, live, and go on vacation."

On the back of this discovery, Polar has issued a statement in which they claim "we are analyzing the best options that will allow Polar customers to continue using the Explore feature while taking additional measures to remind customers to avoid publicly sharing GPS files of sensitive locations." They also confirm in the statement that there has been no leak or breach of data and have apologized to users for suspending the 'Explore' feature.

In the meantime, marking your location to private (the app's default setting) will ensure that your data not only remains private but in addition, will not be shared with third-party apps such as Facebook.

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