Opinion: For Your Safety, Stop Tracking Your Steps

A portion of the heat map showing potentially sensitive information about Taiwan, from the DailyBeast

In the news lately, there have been multiple reports about how the fitness-tracking app, Strava, is revealing more about its users than anyone ever intended. Militaries around the world found that with this app, people could not only track specific routes that important military personnel went about during their day, but could also determine WHO was going that route. The Strava “heat map” potentially revealed the location of secret military bases around the world.

It’s kind of scary that in today’s age, it really is that easy to find someone and where they go throughout the day on their walks, runs, and bike rides. It’s obviously an incredible threat if someone wants to target anyone or anything of importance.

Fitness trackers and mobile apps that keep track of everything about you have been adopted on a large scale. Everything from “checking in” on Facebook to the routes of your Uber rides are a way that someone can track where you are. Isn’t it kind of odd, too, how you’re checking out a website one minute and then next thing you know you’re getting bombarded with those company’s ads on Facebook and Instagram?

Do we really need fitness trackers to monitor our every move? Most trackers now make it seem like the more you wear them, the more you’ll benefit. The all-heralded 10,000 steps is a great place to start for a lot of people looking to get fit. It works well because it gives them a quantitative target to hit and provides them with some type of extrinsic motivation to do so.

However, once people know what it feels like to increase their activity level throughout the day, there’s less and less reason to continue using a fitness tracker for that specific purpose. They now have a good idea of the difference between being sedentary and active, and they’ll be getting a lot less out of their “10,000 steps” than when they first started. We had a client who used a sleep-tracking device for two weeks, after which he stopped wearing it because he had already learned everything he could about his sleep and recovery patterns from the device in question.

Regardless of whether you’re using a tracker or not, your fitness routine has to be progressive in nature, because 10,000 steps daily won’t work forever. I’m all for measuring as long as it emphasizes progress, but perhaps you can do so without also compromising your privacy and your safety. You don’t need a fitness tracker, but if you insist on tracking and sharing your results on social media, mind your privacy. You never know who’s watching!

by Dan Cerone

New York, NY

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