Over the past few days the Walk Fife team have been sent many questions regarding the safety of using GPS enabled devices to track your outdoor activities.

As many of you will already know, fitness app firm Strava recently released some data which caused some privacy and safety concerns to be voiced related to the use of such devices.

The data in question revealed the activity of the apps users world wide. This data has highlighted that many users of devices such as gps tracking watches, fitness trackers and smartphone apps, were possibly unaware that their daily activity was being shared online and is freely available to access by anyone wishing to do so.

How has this happened?

Many GPS / fitness trackers require the user to create an online account in order to record their activity. Several of these online services not only record the users daily routine but, more often than not, open up the users data to a wider “community” where people can share their favourite routes and locations. This is where the issues of privacy and safety come to the forefront.

It seems that by default many of these online services set the account status of new users to public. This has lead to many people sharing their daily activity online without actually being aware that they are doing so.

Why the fuss?

The primary purpose of these devices is to track your route and the time and, like myself, many users of these devices start recording their activity as soon as they step outside their house. This means that if you are a creature of routine, people observing your account can start to deduce different facts about you from the patterns in the information that you are sharing online.

Information can include:

Where you are likely to be located at given times throughout the week – do you really want strangers to be able to track you down? With the continuing rise of online stalkers, this is something people should be aware of prior to making an account public.

Where your property is and when it is likely to be empty – this is like winning the lottery for thieves. From observing your daily routine online, thieves can take advantage of the information you have shared to break into your home while you are out.

Protecting yourself and your privacy

There is no need to panic if you are a user of one of these types of devices as there are a few simple things you can do to secure yourself and your privacy.

  • Log in to the online account that is associated with your device (eg Strava, Garmin Connect, Suunto Moves etc.) and look over your profile settings and ensure that your account is set to private.
  • Make sure that your account is not set up to share your progress live with your social network accounts such as twitter and Facebook. If you find that it is sharing publicly then switch the connection off.
  • If you have your device connected to a smartphone app or you are a user of a smartphone fitness tracking app, then make sure you check the settings within the app to ensure that it is not sharing anything that you do not wish it to share publicly.
  • Some services will allow you to share your tracks with selected users of the platform and sharing can be switched off at any time should you wish but make sure you check the settings carefully before agreeing to do this.
  • After each update of the service or app, make sure that the settings remain the same as you have selected and have not returned to their default state.

If you are struggling to find the relevant settings within your account or app then contact that particular provider’s support team for help and advice.

While these devices are ideal for tracking your progress and recording your favourite walks, please be aware of your privacy and safety when using them. If you would like to ask our team any questions regarding this topic, please email us at info@walkfife.com

Happy Walking!

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