Busy MBA students need to work-it out! But many of us are overwhelmed by the task of picking a fitness app to measure our achievement, and particularly bewildered by finding a safe app to use. Beth Skwarecki of Lifehacker showed me how and now I’m going to pay it forward…
Who knows where you ran last week? If you’re privacy-minded, perhaps just you…and your running app. But our fitness apps often share more information than we realize. The Strava app, and now Polar Flow, have released maps that gave away potentially sensitive military locations.
It’s not just militaries that should be worried. A lot of us—women in particular—are wary of letting the world know where we live. (If you write things on the internet that sometimes make people mad, you may be especially wary.) Some basic tips for staying safe in any app are:
- Don’t use your real name (and beware logging in through Facebook, which knows your real name).
- Consider using a profile pic that doesn’t show your face.
- Don’t track runs that start from your house.
- Keep your runs private by default.
- Hide the time of your runs, if possible, so a stalker doesn’t know when to stop by your favorite park. (Keep in mind that there’s a timestamp whenever you share a post to social media, too.)
Those guidelines may not work for everyone, because information only exists when we share it. Maybe you log your runs (which amounts to sharing with the company that makes your app) because you want to collect data for your own use. Maybe you do all your running in your neighborhood, and want to share with your friends. Maybe a stopwatch and paper notebook just aren’t for you.
So if you want to keep your location and other information private, here’s what you’ll need to lock down in each of the popular apps:
This is the site that was in the news most recently. (Each of these apps will get their day in the headlines, we’re sure.) To keep your data private, here’s what the company recommends:
- Go to Settings and then Privacy to set the default for future runs to Private (your other options are Followers or Public).
- Change the privacy of each of your past runs individually.
- To hide everything, set your profile (not just sessions) to Private as well.
Strava is a little more complicated because there are so many different ways to interact with other users (all the leaderboards, for example). To get the most privacy, Strava says that you can:
- Turn on Enhanced Privacy in settings. This means that your full last name will not appear, and only your followers are able to see details of your activities. People have to request approval if they want to follow you (much like a locked Twitter or Instagram account).
- Turn on Private By Default, which keeps activities private to only you. It doesn’t affect past activities. Private activities don’t appear on leaderboards and won’t appear on the next edition of the public heatmap.
- Turn on Group Activity Enhanced Privacy, which means only your followers, and people you follow, can see activities you do as part of a group.
- Turn on Hide from Leaderboards. This doesn’t affect activities you’ve already done.
- Turn on Hide from Flybys.
- Block anybody you don’t like. However: “Someone you’ve blocked will be able to see your activity entry in public areas like segment leaderboards, club feeds, and segment explore however the blocked athlete will not be able to access your activity or profile page if they click on your entry.”
- Turn on Hide Training Log. Your training log is private if you have Enhanced Privacy turned on, but you can also hide your training log even if you don’t.
- Set Privacy Zones around your house, place of work, etc. Strava will hide the portion of your activity that starts or stops in the privacy zone.
There are major tradeoffs to each of these settings. For example, if the privacy zone only includes a few houses, people could easily notice the dead zone and guess which house is yours. And you’re not eligible for any leaderboards that start or end in the privacy zone—too bad if you have a great segment in your neighborhood.
And the caveats on the different privacy settings are labyrinthine. For example, if you have Enhanced Privacy turned on, “Keep in mind that, unless marked private, your activities are still visible in public locations like the Flyby, group activity features, and segment, public club, and challenge leaderboards. In invite-only clubs, your activities linked on the leaderboards will only be visible to other club members. Additionally, your profile can still be found using our athlete search but can only see certain information on your profile page.” Good luck.
You can’t manage Runkeeper’s privacy settings from within the app, so you’ll have to go to the website. You can:
- Set your account to private, which stops your profile from showing up in search results.
- Go to Sharing settings, and set your activities, body measurements, and other information to Just Me or Friends. This doesn’t change your old activities.
- Change the Activity Viewable By setting on individual activities—again, only from the website.
- To remove activities from your feed, there is also a Hide This setting on each item in your feed. Again, just from the website.
Changing your privacy setting in Nike Run Club also changes them for other apps (like Nike Training Club). You can:
- Set your profile to Me Only to keep everything private, or Friends to allow your profile to be searchable. In that case, people who aren’t (yet) your friends can send a friend request and can view your aggregate activity data.
- That’s it, apparently. You have to decide whether to share each individual run to your “feed” within the app, and from there to social media. You can also remove runs individually from your feed.
Activities on Fitbit are private by default, but you can choose to share them to groups within the FItbit app (either organized groups, or “private groups” like your friends list). You can also share them, or not, on other social media.
To keep your profile private as well, this is what Fitbit recommends:
- Under Account and Privacy, you can set each item of your profile to public, friends only, or private.
- Then scroll down and do the same for your badges and trophies, your lifetime stats, and your average daily step count.
- Keep scrolling to set the privacy on your graphs, too.
You can’t change the settings on your “About Me” or the date you joined; these are always public.
So there you have it….now get out there and move safely!