Is Strava Compromising YOUR Safety?

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As a runner who is actively training for the Boston Marathon, I use Strava just about every day. Syncing my daily runs and workouts —other than Fridays, my coveted rest day — isn’t even a decision anymore. When I upload my run to my watch’s (the Epson Prosense 307 GPS) corresponding app, it syncs my workouts to Strava automatically.

There is, however, one continuous, unconscious effort I have to make — other than naming my workout something obscure or after a song lyric or quote that has been stuck in my head for the majority of my workout. And that is making my workout ‘public.’ I always click the master lock icon so that it shifts from it’s ‘locked’ position into an open one.

After all, if I just wanted to see my workout times and splits, I could just look through my watch history, or analyze data more thoroughly on the app.  But since I want my friends (and the larger athletic community in general) to see my hard work, I make sure each run, swim, and bike ride is visible to my friends and followers. (And to be totally honest, I also want the kudos. Really badly.)

A lot of runners and athletes have a likeminded approach when it comes to their training. Runners are instinctively communal, and competitive. We want the larger running community to see our efforts, and we want to see what others are doing to become faster, better, and stronger runners. And it’s not just our friends that Strava allows us to connect with — we can also track and follow along with the training and musings of professional runners (think: Allie Kieffer) and influential individuals within the sport (like Kelly Roberts).

I should also take into account that we live in the overshare economy, where nothing really happens if you don’t post about it on social media. (It doesn’t. DOES IT?!)

Regardless, we’re posting about our whereabouts — through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and now, Strava — more often and more regularly now than ever before. The only difference between Strava and other social apps is that Strava maps out and pinpoints our exact coordinates — especially at times we’re prone to riding solo — as well as potential patterns in our schedules. And that can be a problem.

It’s definitely a problem for national security, as we found out last week that the fitness tracking app was outing sensitive data, like the locations of US soldiers and military bases, through its heat mapping tool. But it can also be a problem for your individual security.

While I’ve written publicly before about why I won’t stop running alone, even though it makes me feel unsafe, I don’t mean that it’s okay to be negligent. While I won’t advocate against posting and sharing your splits and routes to Strava, for a number of reasons — because getting #kudos is awesome, because I’ve used the app to discover new routes for long bike rides during ironman training, and because I think it’s a great way to motivate yourself and gauge progress —I will advocate for distributing and withholding your information in a smart way.

Like, putting yourself on ‘private’ for example, or managing your settings so that only people you accept can see your data and maps. Perhaps refrain from sharing any runs that could lead anyone directly back to your apartment or home (I try to stop my watch a few streets away from my doorstep — and, Editor’s Note, Nicole Gilbert on Twitter tipped me off to the fact that Strava has a privacy setting that actually allows you to create a privacy zone around your home, office, or whatever base you prefer). And if you run super regularly — like, always the same route, at the same time, every single day — maybe think about mixing up your route (at least, publicly) once in awhile to make it harder for anyone to track your behaviors or routine. While it’s uncomfortable to think about someone using what should be an amazing social running tool to take advantage of you, unfortunately, it is a possibility. Especially for women.

So do yourself — and the good PR folks at Strava — a favor, and check yourself and your sharing habits. There’s probably something you can be doing to keep your private information more secure. You might not be wreaking of sensitive information like the US military, but your safety is still pretty important.

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2 comments on “Is Strava Compromising YOUR Safety?”

  1. Great article and I believe everyone could learn something from this. I don’t use Strava for that very reason. You never know who is watching, looking, or reading. Plus, to be honest, I don’t bring my watch a lot on runs either.

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