Can your home address be found on Strava Heatmaps? Researchers at North Carolina State University Raleigh wanted to find out the answer to this question. The answer is clear: yes. They can, yes.
The fitness-tracking app Strava is used by more than 100 million people around the world. It is a popular way to keep track of outdoor fitness routines like running and cycling.
Strava’s “heatmap” tool takes GPS data from users’ fitness activities and puts it together in an anonymous way to help people find popular routes. With these heatmaps, Strava members can find new tracks and see how popular they are.
But researchers found a way around that could make it possible to track and identify users by combining heatmap data that is available to the public with information that is unique to each user.
How Experts Found Out Where People Lived
The study team used data from a public Strava heatmap to find out where people started and ended their runs near specific homes. Then, when OpenStreetMaps was added, the individual addresses of homes were found.
Since public Strava accounts often have activity timestamps and distances, the researchers were able to figure out possible routes and, by extension, users’ home addresses.
Researchers found that the addresses were right about 37.5% of the time when they compared the results to voter registration records.
How You Can Stop This from Happening
Based on the data, the study team thought that people who live in densely populated areas are pretty safe because there is so much Strava heatmap data that it is almost impossible to track an individual.
People who live in places with fewer people might need to be more careful.
If you want to keep your actions private, you can hide when they begin and end in Strava. So as to:
If you want to ensure your privacy, you can hide the start and finish of your activities within Strava. To do this:
- Go to Settings.
- Tap the cogwheel in the upper right-hand corner.
- Select “Privacy Controls” then “Edit Map Visibility.”
- Here, you can customize how near the start or end of an activity is hidden (up to a 1-mile radius).