PRESS RELEASE

7th May 2024

You can run but you can’t hide – runners urged to remain vigilant with data when using fitness apps

Running enthusiasts are being urged to protect their data when using fitness apps to avoid it from falling into the wrong hands.

The warning comes from investigative tech firm, Altia, who said the data accumulated in social running apps paints a digital picture of a user’s life, with a person’s location, running routes, and timings made visible.

With the country recognising National Stalking Awareness Week (22 – 26 April), Altia is encouraging runners to ‘lock down’ their privacy settings, making their profile available only to trusted friends.

The UK recorded more than 700K stalking and harassment offences in the first 6 months of 2023, and Altia warned that those who carry out these crimes may look to use data from running apps to inform their activities.

Apps such as Strava have risen in popularity since the pandemic when there was an uptake in running during the lockdown, allowing users to track and share their progress.

They have a huge following, with Strava currently hosting more than 100 million community members across 190 countries.

Utilising a phone’s GPS to track activity and performance statistics, users can share their workouts with friends and followers by posting it on their feed.

While runners can enjoy the kudos for a strong performance, failing to protect their data can give followers with ulterior motives an insight into their lives.

Dave Sampson, Consultant for Digital Intelligence, Altia, said: “The default setting for these apps is to have everything visible, so users should actively check their settings before they start using it.

“If someone is looking to track you they potentially have visibility of your run routes, the times you set off, and potentially even your home address if you go straight from the door, which is all valuable information.”

Altia also warned that the data could be obtained and used by members of organised crime groups.

Dave said: “There is also potential for individuals to use it for purposes other than what it was designed for. For example, a prison officer who uses the app could be identified and approached by an organised crime group which is looking to smuggle drugs into a prison.

“Without the available security enabled, if you track and share your running activity to and from your place of work and that is a secure or restricted location, you could unwittingly be sharing insight into you and your workplace.”

For those looking to safeguard their data, Altia advised that as well as ensuring their privacy settings are as stringent as possible, users should check who likes their status, whether they are a regular follower, and whether their activity is genuine.

“The risk comes from the opportunity the data gives potential criminals. Anything you do can be taken and used to locate you, but it’s about being vigilant and taking the necessary precautions to minimise that risk as much as possible.” Dave added.

“Our advice would be to lock it down when it comes to your privacy settings,” he said. “That way you can enjoy your progress safe in the knowledge that your data is secure and only shared appropriately.”

While the data can be used by unscrupulous characters, law enforcement agencies are turning this on its head, using criminals’ internet data to identify their location and activity.

Tools such as Altia’s Open Source Internet software supports police forces and investigators to do this, pulling data from a person of interest’s online presence for analysis.

When combined with Altia Insight case management software, law enforcement can build effective investigations by uncovering patterns, connections and investigative opportunities .

Headquartered in Nottingham, Altia specialises in innovative solutions for digital intelligence and investigation, leveraging advanced technologies while providing software tools and services to law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and corporate entities.

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