Polar suspends feature showing global activity map over privacy concerns

Turns out Strava isn't the only fitness platform risking sensitive information
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Polar has temporarily suspended a feature on its Flow platform, after it was revealed the app's privacy settings allowed for access to potentially sensitive information of some of its users.

According to reports from both De Correspondent and Bellingcat, the Explore feature (shown in the video below), which taps into a global activity map of Polar Flow users, gives away the location, names and addresses of thousands of users who appear to work for military and intelligence services and log activity data through their Polar GPS sports watch or fitness tracker.

Read this: Your fitness app's privacy policy is changing - here's why

The researchers who compiled the data drew up a list of roughly 6,500 users using the app to publicly store data, including soldiers in sensitive areas and NSA workers. Naturally, the information available about these individuals is a significant security risk in the hands of the wrong people.

And, as we saw from Strava during a similar privacy issue, Polar has responded to the findings within Flow by temporarily shuttering the Explore feature.

We reached out to Polar for comment on the reports, who responded: "All your profile, training sessions and activity summaries are all set to private by default. All data mentioned within a recent article and available on Polar Flow is marked public, meaning only users who have chosen to publicly share their training sessions were affected.

"As a further additional precautionary measure, we decided to disable the Flow Explore view while we make some tweaks to it in order to maintain the high standards we set ourselves, when it comes to guaranteeing your privacy in its entirety."

And as this comment, and a further Polar statement, suggests, this is a little different to the Strava episode, in which data wasn't automatically set to private. But it's still not a great look for the Finnish company - especially when you consider the data on show was much more revealing than Strava's location debacle - and we imagine it will now take steps to shore up any lingering issues regarding privacy.

In the meantime, it's probably best to go through Polar Flow (and pretty much any other fitness platform you use) and double check your settings, just in case.

Polar suspends feature showing global activity map over privacy concerns

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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