Strava Privacy: How to manage sharing, hide your activities and opt out of the heatmap?
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(Pocket-lint) – Strava is a great fitness tool, loved by many runners and cyclists. An easy-to-use app, compatible with Android and iPhone devices, plus integration with most other sports watches and trackers like Fitbit and Garmin, make it something of a universal language for athletes and fitness fans.
The company, however, found itself in the headlines following the release of its heatmap and all that was revealed in it. This raised the issue of Strava’s privacy and increased attention to what users share and with whom.
What is the Strava Heatmap?
Most fitness platforms offer some sort of user-crafted route discovery feature. Strava is particularly successful in this area thanks to the sharing of routes by its users.
The heatmap is basically all of these roads laid out on the same map, leaving dark areas where there’s no Strava activity and going through reds and yellows to warm whites where there’s a lot of activity. Over a billion activities have been uploaded to Strava. It is therefore a very concrete map of the activities of Strava users.
The globe map is amazing, but it’s the ability to zoom in and see the exact routes used that makes it interesting. You can search for a location and review running routes, for example to see if there is a usable route at a vacation spot. The street level heat map is now only available to Strava users, so you must be logged in to view it.
The media frenzy of 2018 came as the Strava heatmap also showed places where you would less expect to find Strava users, like deep in Afghanistan or Syria, with the suggestion that these are likely military users sharing data in these regions, perhaps unknowingly.
The heatmap itself is compiled from anonymous public activity data. It therefore does not track who did what and where, although some of this information is available in Strava, it all depends on your settings.
Strava Heatmap: How to Disable Your Data
If the heatmap scares you and you really don’t want to be included, Strava has a unique checkbox that ensures your data won’t be included.
- Log into your Strava account on the website at: https://www.strava.com/settings/privacy.
- Scroll down to Metro and Heatmap.
- Uncheck the “Include your activities in Metro and Heatmap” box.
You just need to make sure that this information is not shared with Strava for the heatmap. You can do this in the app or on the website.
Strava Route Finder keeps track of who’s running where, including you.
As a Strava user, searching your local area can reveal popular running routes, which is great for finding other places to run or cycle. It’s easy to do through your account, just click on the “Explore” tab.
This reveals a lot of data and this is where it’s important to manage your settings to make sure you have the right level of privacy for you.
For example, you can view segments and find parts of routes. Segments (as a Strava user) are amazing because you can find your area, compare your performance to other users, and challenge yourself to climb the leaderboard. In the context of running and cycling, this is probably one of the best features that Strava offers (Garmin does too, but it’s not quite as prolific).
It also allows you to click and see who is doing that route, review user profiles, see common routes and user route history, which some people may not want.
How can I change my Strava privacy settings?
We touched on the heatmap above, but Strava offers many more options when it comes to privacy.
By default, your profile is publicly available and Strava users can see you, your rides, and your photos. Users can see when you’ve completed a ride and how fast, as well as where you started, which is often your home address.
Let’s take a detailed look at the settings and explain what they do and how to use them. Settings are available in the Strava app on your phone and on the website.
Privacy settings have four main sections: profile page, activities, group activities and flyby. Strava offers controls for each section, allowing you to choose the option that works best for you. Each option is explained in detail, which makes using these settings quite easy.
Most options are “Everyone” or “Followers”. Followers are the people who follow you, whether they are friends or training partners, but also strangers, depending on how you set up your account. If your profile page is set to ‘everyone’, anyone can see you and view your information, but if you set it to ‘followers’, you’ll need to approve who follows you, giving you more control who can see what.
When it comes to activities, you can choose to restrict them to only followers or keep them completely private, which becomes the default. But once you’ve completed an activity, you can choose to only make that activity public. If you ran a marathon for charity, for example, you can choose to share that, but not all workouts that would reveal your training routes, for example.
Flybys allow you to replay an activity, minute by minute, and see other athletes who have followed the same route in order to know if you were close. Flybys are disabled by default and only show up if you allow everyone to see your details.
How to hide your training diary
Strava lets you share your training log with everyone or hide it completely. Again, someone might be able to spot a workout pattern that you might dislike – do you leave your house empty every Sunday morning?
On the other hand, you may not want people to see how active or inactive you have been. Again, it’s easy to turn this off via the training log page.
This is a great option because it basically allows you to hide sensitive areas that you don’t want on your activity map. The most obvious example is your home, because this allows anyone who can see your activities to see where you live.
You probably start and stop your runs and hikes right at your front door, right? Perhaps your route map reveals that you always exit from the back of your garden through a hidden entrance? This is one of Strava’s most useful commands for keeping your home location virtually private.
It could show that weirdo you met at the gym the other night where you live, or if you haven’t used privacy controls, anyone using Strava who is looking for activity in your area. and falls on your profile.
You can however enter an address and choose to hide an area of the map, with a radius of up to 1000m. This means that you will also not be able to be included in segments near this area, but also that you can hide the exact house you are running to or from. Basically, the idea is to allow you to be part of the local Strava community, but keep your home private.
Tip for UK users: use a postcode rather than your door number.
It is also possible to hide the start and end point of activities, regardless of where they take place. This means that you don’t need to provide specific addresses, it works whether you are at a hotel, on vacation or otherwise.
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Hide in Segment Leaderboards
As we mentioned above, segments are one of Strava’s great assets and their absence is rather sad, especially if you think you can reach the top.
Segments are small parts of a route, such as from one bridge to another along a towpath, that allow users to locate themselves in relation to other Strava users. It’s a challenge and a competition, but if you want to get out of it, you’ll have to change the Activities section of the privacy controls. To be included in Segments, you’ll need to allow everyone to see your activities, which is perhaps the biggest privacy decision you’ll ever have to make on Strava.
Segments are everywhere, just check your local area and go beat some of those local times!
Strava’s goal is to have a sharing community of athletes and that’s what it is. Like many social and online networks, it’s assumed that you know what you’re sharing and are comfortable with it.
For most users, sharing routes and performance information is no problem. If you live in a remote area and don’t want to reveal your routines, or don’t want to share exactly which house you live in in the suburbs, then Strava offers those kinds of controls.
If you’re worried, you now have an idea of all the measures Strava has in place and you can, if you prefer, privatize and share activities on an individual basis, or simply use Strava as your personal training diary.
But remember that other devices you use may also share your activities, so check your GPS watch settings. For example, Garmin Connect also has its own privacy settings, as does Strava.
Written by Chris Hall.