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Strava tracking data reveals locations of secret military bases

Strava tracking data reveals locations of secret military bases

Journalist Ben Taub homed in on the location of U.S. special operations bases in the Sahel.

Scott Lafoy, an open-source imagery analyst, told CNN it's too early to truly assess how useful the data is.

When Strava, an exercise-tracking firm, past year published a "heat map" of its user activity around the world, it probably didn't expect the data representation to cause a national security scandal-but it has.

The issue was first raised by Nathan Ruser, a 20-year-old worldwide security student at the Australian National University. Strava boasts "tens of millions" of users, and according to the company, marked three trillion latitude/longitude points on the updated map.

Strava allows users to capture maps of the routes followed while carrying out exercise like jogging, which are publicly visible if set to Public rather than Private. Unlike many online publications, we don't have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.

And while the locations of some of these bases are well known in war zones such as Syria and Iraq, many are also unknown.

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"We are committed to helping people better understand our settings to give them control over what they share", the company said, sharing a blogpost from 2017 which detailed eight things users can do to lock down their privacy on the service, including specifically opting out of the global heatmap by unchecking a box in the settings page.

According to a report by The Guardian, military analysts noticed that the data visualization map was potentially revealing sensitive data about military personnel on service.

Users can ask themselves, do I really want to share my jogging route with the entire Internet? This is bad news for security, as it establishes reliable "pattern of life" information that would otherwise be unavailable to the rest of the world.

The app reportedly has an option to turn off tracking, but it appears that many users, including military personnel, have failed to do so.

"This is literally what 10,000 innocent individual screw-ups look like", he said. For example, Daily Beast journalist Adam Rawnsley spotted jogging activity in a beach that is near a supposed Central Intelligence Agency base in Somalia's Mogadishu, New Yorker journalist Ben Taub found where U.S. Special Operations bases were located in Africa's Sahel region, and a Twitter user claimed that he discovered a Patriot missile system site in Yemen. The BBC reported that British military bases in the likes of Malvinas / Falklands lit up on the heatmap, and even a missile command site in Taiwan was highlighted. The map of Afghanistan is a spiderweb of lines connecting bases, showing supply routes, as is northeast Syria, where the United States maintains mostly unpublicised bases.

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