Fitness Tracker Strava, used by me and many of my peers, updated its user heat maps in November of 2017, showing exercise location data for billions of activities, and consequently, the improved clustered information showed the location of sensitive military and security locations around the world.
In January of 2018, more detailed revelations began surfacing at a rapid pace when Nathan Ruser, a student studying international security at the Australian National University, began posting his findings via Twitter.
Using a series of images, Ruser pointed out Strava user activities potentially related to US military bases in Afghanistan, Turkish military patrols in Syria, as well as a possible guard patrol in the Russian operating area of Syria.
I felt terrible when I first read this information. I use Strava to record my bike rides. And I use MapMyRun. I felt angry toward Strava for publishing the heat maps. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself ticked about the apparent lack of training provided to our military and security personnel to protect sensitive information.
The Garmin app has a selective option to turn off selected data sharing to Social Media, but there should be military and security worker training on how to shut it off, completely, so that an app’s data is not visible on Social Media, or even to an app administrator.
Some of the apps have options to protect the geographical reference to a user’s start and stop location. But in my mind, that’s not enough security when your job makes you and your coworker’s locations vulnerable. Hiding my “start” location might be useful in my neighborhood of 200 homes, but in an Afghani Desert, any information is too much information.
My spouse is a 30-year military veteran who has been in harm’s way. And I’m deeply concerned about the safety of our military members and unintentional Social Media data sharing that could affect them.
Military members and security workers are trained (and policy is set for them) to stay away from Social Media or to severely limit its use. Using an app that had an active location service running “should” be a no-no in the scope of a military members role. Many security workers that I know actively self-monitor their own Social Media use.
While it is fun and motivational to measure exercise results, there is no requirement to do so in an app, and it is my opinion that a military member or security employee should know better. My spouse has a Facebook account that he very rarely uses, and he has never used an app for exercise that would track his location while on duty–I did that, and the only way anyone would have known his running location is IF they knew that he was running with me.
In the event of an emergency, my spouse carries his phone while exercising, and lets me know about his plans ahead of time. And if he wanted to “measure” his exercise results, he used an offline wrist exercise monitor, or timed his run and calculated his results the old fashioned way, with a stopwatch. Remember those?
In our household, we’ve always had a policy that we don’t post Facebook “vacation” or activity information that reveals where we are “until” we get home. We started that even when our kids were young.
In the “old days” we had exercise trackers that had no connections to Social Media. Anyone remember the old Polar exercise monitors? No personal data was required to use the device, and you could still measure your results. It was simply a measuring device that retained anonymous data.
My husband got his first smartphone last year, the year he retired from active duty. Up to that point, he always had a flip phone. It may have had GPS, but had no apps. It was a phone. This was the first year in his life that he used any Google apps.
The old World War II era warning that “loose lips sink ships” still holds as true today as it always did, and I am shocked that our military and security agencies aren’t more diligent about new technology developments that allow access to personal data on Social Media.
Training military or security employees to protect sensitive information should be a top priority of these agencies. The exposure of the sensitive heat map data by Strava should be a lesson to those agencies to determine better policies to protect personnel.
Sadly, when I went seeking information distributed by the DoD on Social Media policies, all I found was a reference page that gave instructions on things like, “How to set up your Tinder” account.
Yes, my title reflects a pun. A “Zero” was a plane used by the Japanese in WWII. And my Networked Learning Space for my UC Denver course is focused on building a Networked Learning Space for the WWII Aviation History Museum in Colorado Springs, a growing museum that just earned Congressional recognition.
I created the site in Google Communities, having looked at other options and deciding that Google tools, with their ease of use, would be the most appropriate tool for reaching school teachers and students of STEM topics.
I’ve started to curate some of the topics that the museum has already begun to promote in its mission: its Link instrument aviation trainer, and technologies developed and used during WWII, like Plexiglass and Formica. The real focus is to find content that is relevant to both the war, and STEM learning. There are a number of relevant technologies and sciences that advanced during the war, but finding them, and making them interesting to young students is a challenge.
My bigger struggle will be to build the site and build a coalition among the museum docents to use the site to draw students and teachers to the museum. We don’t want them to learn just from visiting the site. We want to tease them to coming and touching and playing with the displays and technologies.
I feel like I will have a long way to go to build the audience for the WWII Aviation Museum site for STEM learning, but I’m just beginning. And I want to find ways to build the voices that will make it interesting.
When recently asked, I didn’t have to think even two seconds about the concept of my learning “tribe” with respect to Network Learning Spaces, but the concept didn’t come about with respect to my classes or volunteer efforts.
Instead, I found myself instantly entrenched in the idea of the “tribe” I’ve become part of with the Training Learning and Development Cast, tldc.us. We hold daily interactions in a cast, we have a Slack channel for continued discussions, we have a podcast, we hold text chats, we connect to each other on Twitter, and we meet each other in person when we can. And many of us call each other friends, peers, and mentors because we are.
I “met” the group officially about a year ago, after being invited to speak as a guest. I immediately immersed myself among this amazing group of my peers in adult learning and instantly found myself “home.” Then, I met a few of the members in person at ATD International last year, (Sam Rogers and Matt Pierce) and found myself hooked.
Never before had I encountered a group that was so much like me in their experience and passion for adult learning, and helping each other.
And quite frankly, never have I learned so much from my peers. Before meeting my “peeps” in TLDC, I always thought of myself as alone in my craft. After all, I’d always worked alone!
In the past few weeks, I’ve been super busy, immersed in the proverbial “drinking from the firehouse” onboarding process of a new job. And this week, I’m on vacation in LA.
But if you ask what I miss most about my days now, I’ll tell you that it is my incredible group of peers from the TLDCast, a group that is not just virtual to me, but very real, and very important to my edification and development of my craft.
I hope to get back to more regular interaction with my group; I guested a couple of weeks ago on a panel discussion.
But TLDC friends, know that I miss you, and know that I’ll soon find a way to get back.