Strava CEO responds after the company's heat map may have compromised secret US military bases around the world

  • Strava CEO James Quarles released a statement following the publication of a fitness tracker heat map that may have exposed US military bases and sensitive humanitarian aide sites around the world.
  • Quarles said he would work with the military and government to address potentially sensitive data, although it's unclear how, since the data is already out there.
  • The US military is reviewing its security practices after the map's publication and its subsequent scrutiny online.


Strava's CEO has responded after the fitness-tracking app released a global map of activity that appears to expose several sensitive US military and humanitarian relief sites around the world.

"In building [the map], we respected activity and profile privacy selections, including the ability to opt out of heatmaps altogether," Strava CEO James Quarles wrote in a statement sent to Business Insider.

"However, we learned over the weekend that Strava members in the military, humanitarian workers, and others living abroad may have shared their location in areas without other activity density and, in doing so, inadvertently increased awareness of sensitive locations."

Quarles wrote that he had family members in the military, and that his company is "taking this matter seriously and understand our responsibility."

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Photo courtesy: RAF/Ministry of Defense/Crown Copyright

A Russian Su-35 Super Flanker soars through the clouds.

Photo courtesy: Aleksander Markin/www.flickr.com

Two RF-4Es of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force patrol above Japan.

Photo courtesy: Japan Air Self-Defense Force/Wikimedia

Israeli F-16s fly low and fast inside the Ramon Crater in the Negev Desert in Israel.

Photo courtesy: Israeli Defense Force

An Israeli air force F-15I maneuvers away after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Nevada's test and training ranges.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Gruenwald

A Dutch F-16 takes off.

Photo courtesy: Reuters

Two Israeli air force F-15s fly in Nevada's Red Flag aerial-training operation in 2004.

Photo courtesy: TSGT KEVIN J. GRUENWALD, USAF via Commons

An Iranian Su-24 waits to take off from Mehrabad International Airport for a training flight.

Photo courtesy: Shahram Sharifi

A Russian Su-30 glides through the air during a test flight.

Photo courtesy: Aleksander Markin

Russia's new T-50 prototype tests its engines in flight.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

An Indian air force SU-30K Flanker lands following a simulated combat mission with US Air Force F-15 Eagles deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies with naval camouflage.

Photo courtesy: Todd Miller

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A US Navy F/A-18C Hornets of the Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-125 "Rough Raiders" flies in formation flight out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, with an unusual tiger-stripe camouflage.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

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OV-10s from the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron show off their woodland camouflage at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Photo courtesy: USAF Official Photo

A flight of Aggressor F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons with various camouflage schemes fly in formation over the Nevada Test and Training Range on June 5, 2008.

Photo courtesy: USAF

A Douglas A-1E Skyraider warbird, painted as "AF 132-683" of the South Vietnamese air force, in 2008.

Photo courtesy: Fly-by-Owen via Wikimedia Commons

US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft from Marine Attack Squadron 513 at Yuma Marine Corps air base, in Arizona, fly in formation during Operation Desert Shield.

Photo courtesy: SSgt Scott Stewart, USAF

A B-52 Stratofortress from the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron leads a formation of Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-2s from the 6th Squadron, US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 18th Aggressor Squadron, and a US Navy EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136 over Guam on February 10, 2009.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

An F-15C-27-MC Eagle with naval camouflage from the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force

An F-16 Fighting Falcon, showing aggressor paint scheme, disconnects from a KC-10 Extender after being refueled during a Red Flag-Alaska exercise on April 22 and is ready to reengage friendly forces.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder

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Quarles committed himself to "working with military and government officials to address potentially sensitive data" as well as streamlining the privacy features and "reviewing features that were originally designed for athlete motivation and inspiration to ensure they cannot be compromised by people with bad intent."

Nowhere in the statement does Quarles apologize or accept or hint at any kind of forethought, wherein he might have envisioned negative impacts from the map beforehand. 

Can't be undone

As is normally the case with internet publishing, once the map went up, it was likely cached and cannot be removed. Anyone who gains access to Strava's data can use it to track the movements of individuals, some of whom may be military personnel who visit classified sites.

Quarles refers to his app as a tool for "athlete motivation," but does not acknowledge that much of the data displayed in the heat map, and likely the most sensitive data, comes from people who are not engaged in athletic pursuits, and have merely left the tracker on.

When US soldiers walk to the location of a classified patriot missile battery designed to defend their base from enemy missile fire, they're not engaging in athletics. But the release of Strava's heat map has now potentially exposed those journeys to the world.

Following the publication of the map and its subsequent revelations, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been briefed and is reviewing the US military's security practices.

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SEE ALSO: Here are some of the biggest reveals from a fitness-tracker data map that may have compromised top-secret US military bases around the world

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