Many of us have been turning to activity tracking apps to monitor our home-based or local workouts with gyms closed. These apps can be easily downloaded onto a device and track activities such as running routes – and associated statistics like running pace and time.  In a recent Digital Health Generation Study of 1,000 young people and their families, 52% reported using digital technology to measure, track and regulate their health.  For many, exercise is a social thing, but due to ongoing restrictions, activity tracking apps have seen a surge in usage, while helping to facilitate interaction between family and friends. As schools increasingly use technology to encourage their pupils to stay active, some have set challenges with activity apps like Strava.  

To find out more about how these apps work our team of online safety experts unpacked Strava, one of the most popular activity tracking apps.  

To understand more about identifying hidden risks online, sign up for our Staying Safe Online Advanced Training Course here. 

So, What is Strava?

Strava is an app used to track exercises such as running, walking, cycling and strength training. The app enables users to track routes via GPS and measures pace, distance etc.  

Age Verification and Data Privacy:

Young people need to be 13 or over and have parental permission to use Strava. Users are required to enter their age at sign up, but they can easily enter a false date of birth to bypass these requirements 

  • During testing we found that when registering with a lower date of birth than 13 – Strava auto corrected the age to 13 years old.  

  • Users must confirm they are over 16 to be able to receive or upload heart rate data – this could also be bypassed easily. 

  • Users can also sign up with other social media accounts including: Facebook, Apple and Google which will automatically use the date of birth from these platforms.  

How Does Strava Work?

  • Users can follow other users, give ‘kudos’ on workouts and discuss shared workouts. 

  • Members can upload photographs from their activities, with over 4 million photos shared per week. 

  • Strava offers challenges to motivate you to set new goals. 

  • Strava uses built-in GPS to track your running routes. Strava is free to download but does come with an optional paid subscription offer that includes additional features to track progress. 

  • The app can link to devices such as your smartwatch.

Key Risks – What you Need to Know

GPS Location

  • A live GPS location could give away the area or exact location of where a user lives or spends time. 

  • If a user runs the same routes every day, a stranger could learn where you live and where you are at certain times in the day. 

  • Relaxed privacy settings could result in identifying personal information being public. 

Communication from Strangers

  • Users can leave comments on activities, people’s posts, achievements, Challenges and much more. 

  • Flybys is a feature of Strava that lets you see the profiles of people you passed by while cycling or running as well as their full route. 

  • This was previously a default setting on the app but following widespread criticism, a user has to manually enable this feature. 

  • A user’s name and other profile information is viewable by other Strava users and the public. 

Safety & Privacy Settings

When a user first sets up their account, everything is set to ‘public’ by default. Here are some of the safety & privacy options available on the app:  

  • Profile page controls Control who views your profile by selecting ‘Everyone’ or ‘Followers’. Selecting ‘Followers’ will give you more control over who views your information

  • You can Report & Block a user on Strava. 

  • The app has a safety feature called ‘Privacy Zones’ that are designed to hide geolocation data within a 500-metre radius, however, this area could still provide a rough idea of where someone lives. 

  • A user’s name and other profile information is viewable by other Strava users and the public. 

Our Top Tips

Our guidance on using activity apps like Strava safely: 

  • Engage young people in a conversation – Make sure they know the importance of protecting their personal information online and only share location data with those they trust.  

  • Check that they know who to talk to if someone makes them feel uncomfortable online.  

  • Teach young people about the importance of knowing how to report and block on the platforms they use.  

  • Make sure privacy zones are enabled to protect the location data of the children in your care. 

  • Use our free Safety Card with further guidance on how to use the safety tools available on Strava. 

While accessibility is important to everyone, so is online safety. To learn how to configure safety and privacy settings on devices and popular platforms, visit our Safety Centre.

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