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Secret Military Installations Apparently Revealed By Snitch-Ass Fitness Tracking App

Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty

The Washington Post has a story today headlined “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like: U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging.

Strava is a fitness tracking app that can map runs and bike rides on your phone or GPS watch like a Fitbit or Garmin and then automatically upload the data from those workouts to a log. The company released a global map of its users’ running and cycling routes back in November, but the map’s full implications were only realized yesterday when Australian Twitter user Nathan Ruser chewed over his dad’s comment that the map was an international guide to the locations of “rich white people.” Ruser found Turkish and Russian military activity in Syria in the Strava data, and other journalists and military observers were quick to use his methods. From the Post:

Andrew Rawnsley, a Daily Beast journalist, noticed a lot of jogging activity on the beach near a suspected CIA base in Mogadishu.

Another Twitter user said he’d located a Patriot site in Yemen.

Ben Taub, a journalist with the New Yorker, homed in on the location of U.S. special operations bases in the Sahel....

The location of most of the sites is already public knowledge – such as the vast Kandahar airbase in Afghanistan...But the data also offers a mine of information to anyone who wanted to attack or ambush U.S. troops in or around the bases, said Schneider, including patterns of activity inside the bases. Lines of activity extending out of bases and back may indicate the routes of patrols. The map of Afghanistan appears as a spiderweb of lines connecting bases, showing supply routes, as does northeast Syria, where the United States maintains a network of mostly unpublicized bases. Concentrations of light inside a base may indicate where concentrations of troops live, eat or work, suggesting possible targets for enemies who wished to target the base.

At a site in northern Syria near a dam, where analysts have suspected the U.S. military is building a base, the map shows a small blob of activity accompanied by an intense line along the nearby dam, suggesting the personnel at the site jog regularly along the dam, Schneider said.


I have a suggestion for the dedicated runners in the U.S. military: estimate that all of your runs are the same pace—the total mileage will come out in the wash—then manually enter all of the workouts into the only good fitness tracking website, Strava sucks.

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Dennis Young

New Orleans-based writer and editor