Fitness App’s Heatmap Exposes Secret Government Military Bases
The tables have been turned as governments are starting to see how intrusive cellular data collection can be, now that a fitness app has exposed secret military bases around the globe.
Strava, an app that has set its sights on becoming a fitness social media network, has recently come under fire for uploading a global heatmap of its users’ activity.
The map has exposed patrol routes as well as secret underground tunnels and bases that have been undisclosed to the public or unable to be viewed on satellite imaging from Google Earth.
Conspiracy theorists are scavenging the heatmap in attempts to discover undisclosed bases. Some online sleuths believe they’ve found evidence of potentially secret outposts located in and around Antarctica, Greenland, and the Giza pyramids.
The intention behind Strava’s app is to create an engaged community of athletes who use each other’s training data to learn and improve their own routines. Users can follow professional athletes or peers to discover new training techniques and regimens, while contributing their practices to a communal forum.
But unless you know to turn off the location services on the app after its downloaded, it will automatically track and upload your movements to its server. Strava hasn’t said how many users have downloaded its app, though it has conceded that it gains roughly a million new users every 45 days with 8 million activities uploaded each week.
This is how the massive, global heatmap was compiled, by collecting the data of both users who were aware of its function and, clearly, quite a few who were unaware. Strava doesn’t make it easy to opt-out of the function that uploads your data, either. One must dig somewhat thoroughly and turn off four different settings to disable all tracking.
The app touts its real-time tracking ability as a safety feature for runners and cyclists who want to share their location with up to three contacts in the event of an emergency. But the flip side of this is that strangers are able to see other users running routes, even with stricter privacy settings, unless tracking data is completely turned off.
One of the main purposes of the app, however, is to acquire “kudos” much like Facebook or Instagram likes. This encourages users to upload data of their whereabouts and routes taken during exercise, while also exposing their routines to just about anyone.
While there are certain features to block out the beginning and end-points of a user’s route, this metadata can be just as intrusive, especially if it’s a route that’s run consistently.
It seems that our newest technological advents are becoming more and more intrusive in our obsession with social media and fitness tracking, now for both the state and the individual.
One of the Oldest Conspiracies Proven True: Project Echelon
When Edward Snowden disclosed the vast conspiracy of a multinational surveillance apparatus, it was vindication for Duncan Campbell who spent decades uncovering one of the biggest facets of government overreach, Project ECHELON. And though it took nearly a lifetime to attain that justification, Campbell turned one of the oldest conspiracies into veritable fact: someone is always listening.
What is Echelon?
Shortly after WWII, five of the world’s major powers – the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada – signed onto a joint surveillance program in the aftermath of the Allies cracking the German “Enigma” and Japanese “Purple” codes. Understanding the importance of intercepting and monitoring signals intelligence, or SIGINT, these five countries, known as the Five Eyes, signed onto the UKUSA agreement, which divvied up segments of the world for each country to monitor.
Signals intelligence monitors all signals received from electronic communications, including radio, radar, telemetry, and just about any type of broadcasted signal. The advent of satellite technology in the late 50s matched with Cold War paranoia led to a rapid expansion of the program, indiscriminately monitoring all communication signals worldwide. Project P-415, nicknamed ECHELON, became the dragnet surveillance program between the five nations, though it was controlled entirely by the National Security Agency – the American intelligence branch operating under the Department of Defense. The U.K.’s intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, became the secondary arm of the ECHELON program.
Through ECHELON, billions of satellite communications were, and continue to be, intercepted and stored in facilities around the world, before being sifted through by computer algorithms searching for keywords that raise red flags. The technology is also able to target individuals using not just phone numbers, but also voice recognition software. The program’s capabilities allow it to target almost anyone on the planet including world leaders, businesses, and private individuals. Despite this fact, it has, more often than not, failed its ostensible job of preventing major acts of terrorism.
Where was ECHELON?
Though there are a number of ECHELON satellite intercept stations around the world, there are a few key locations pointed out by Campbell and other whistleblowers. The largest operation is located at the RAF Menwith Hill station in Yorkshire, U.K.,where over 300 million emails and phone calls are monitored daily. Campbell and colleagues have pointed out that a clear indication of ECHELON-involved stations are large geodesic domes, known as radomes. Beneath these domed enclosures are satellites, hidden from eyes that may be curious of their orientation.