Strava and the Law of Unintended Consequences

By now, most would be aware of the release of a “heat map” from sports performance app Strava that identified the up to 1 billion activity paths (Running, Cycling, etc) of every one of its users. At first view this seems like innocuous and unsurprising information, a lot of people run around Central Park, New York, cycle in Belgium and Swim at Bondi Beach. At the same time not a lot of users in Afghanistan and Syria. And that is where it gets interesting. Thanks to an enterprising Australian student, Nathan Ruser, the world knows a lot more.

We know where US bases are, we know French activity in Africa. The depth of information is disturbing, but not at all surprising in the digital world. Any digital device has a location element. If you did not realise this then you are naive as an individual. If you don’t realise this as the worlds largest defence force then you are negligent in the extreme. Unintended consequences can be avoided. How did the chain of command not understand that the level of vulnerability had widened since the use of Fitbits, Garmin watches and other wearable devices let alone smartphones?

Enterprises, agencies and consumers all have to make a simple assumption. Any information that is collected about them at an individual and collective level can and likely will be used against them. Not all use is nefarious, tracking and comparing physical activity is a great idea, unless you are on a hidden US base in the Middle East or a French base in Africa.

capioIT has simple guidelines to avoid these issues for consumers and enterprises alike

1 – Assume the data gathered is going to be used against you. If the negative outcome is less than the positive benefits from Amazon to apple watches at least you need to way up the options

2 – Read the fine print. Opt out when you can. It is not an altruistic world. They are not getting your data for your benefit, it is gathered for their commercial benefit.

3 – Technology is accelerating incredibly rapidly, legislative and regulatory environments are not. Cultural norms do not keep up with technology

4 – Ask yourself if you like what you are doing today to be splashed across the world’s media tomorrow?

5 – This is only the beginning. It will only get more pervasive with the growth of AI

Capture Point

Technology is accelerating. Humans are not accelerating as quickly. As a result, the benefits of technology investment will often be overwhelmed by negative issues. We need as a society to understand this,. Our governments, enterprises and watchdogs need to also understand this. As the security failings of 2017, and the strive data release this year have highlighted, society is not ready for technology. We need to accelerate the ability to understand, regulate and protect at the same time accelerate the positive outcomes of technology.

About capioIT - Phil Hassey

If you require further information, please contact Phil Hassey, CEO of capioIT. capioIT is an advisory firm focused on helping organisations to understand emerging technology as the world becomes Digital. Phil may be contacted easily in the digital and real world. +61422231793
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