How to protect your workout data

If you use fitness apps and trackers with your GPS watch, be aware of how your data may be being used

November 20th, 2019 by | Posted in Training | Tags: , , , ,

Do you use a GPS and fitness app to track your workouts? In the wake of Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit and concerns about Google having access to the goldmine of personal health data Fitbit has been accumulating, Wired magazine has published a story about how to protect your data. Because, do you want marketers to know your step count and fitness habits? (No, you do not.)

RELATED: Google’s acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion raises privacy concerns

The story says a general data audit should look like this: “Check which data is being collected, which parts of it are public, and how many of your apps can access it.” What it boils down to is this: your data is only as safe as the least-safe app you use to interpret your data. For example, if you use an iPhone, the data collected by Apple Health is very secure (especially, as the story indicates, if you use 2-factor authentication), any other fitness apps you have on your device (such as Garmin Connect, the Suunto app, adidas Runtastic etc.) may be accessing that data also, so you need to be familiar with their privacy policies, not just Apple’s. (You can see and control which apps are accessing your Apple Health data by opening the app and clicking on your icon in the top right-hand corner.) You can also simply delete your Apple Health data.

Young female runner checking her pulse with an activity tracker after training

Here’s how to avoid having Apple Health collect your data at all: go to your settings in iOS, then Privacy, then Motion and Fitness, and turn it off.

For Android users

Here’s some info on what data Google Fit collects and why. As with Apple, make sure to check the privacy policies of any apps you have connected to Google Fit. To see the data Google Fit has collected on you, open the app on your device, tap Profile and then the Settings icon. Tap Manage Your Data to erase data collected in specific categories (or simply tap Clear All Data, if you like). You can also turn off activity tracking and location access.

In the app’s settings, you should also select Manage connected apps to disconnect them from Google Fit.

And to be absolutely certain Google Fit is not collecting any data on you, you can uninstall it on your phone.

RELATED: Strava ends partnership with Relive video-making app

Strava

Here is Strava’s privacy policy. Obviously, if you’re using Strava, it’s probably because you want followers, and you want your followers to be able to see what you’re up to. Strava gives you pretty good control over different aspects of your privacy, for example you control who follows you using the Following tab, and you can manage exactly what your followers can see in the Privacy Controls. (Go to your Profile at the bottom of the screen, then tap the settings icon in the top right-hand corner and scroll down.) You can also edit logged activities individually to specify whether they’re visible to the public, to your followers only, or to you only, by tapping Privacy Controls while in the edit function for that activity.

Strava
Photo: Philippe Tremblay

A cautionary tale: in September 2018, a British cyclist had several expensive bikes stolen from his garage, and Strava was suspected of aiding the thieves in pinpointing the location of his home. Using Strava’s Privacy Zones feature lets you hide your start and finishing locations to make you less vulnerable in this respect.

Be aware that, as a quick glance at the policy makes clear, while Strava doesn’t sell your specific personal information, it does sell, license and share “aggregate” information with other marketers and researchers. Strava explains how you can control specific aspects of this, here.