Strava Surprise! Your Personal Data Is Not So Personal

From, I was fairly surprised to find Portland purchasing my data.  In the old days of the Internet one asked and folks contributed.  how long until this is fed directly into the “machine” for “public safety” and bikes are tracked, just like cars.  Nitwits.

You can be forgiven for believing that your personal data is actually yours. After all, it’s your email. Your Fitbit. Your GPS device. Or your tractor. The reality of today’s data-obsessed world, however, is that the minute your data hits the cloud, it’s no longer yours. Not even remotely.

In fact, while it’s long been a truism that if you’re not paying for a product, you arethe product, it’s increasingly the case that your data is someone else’s property even when you are paying. But shouldn’t payment give us the option of privacy?

You Ride The Bike; We Mine Your Data

This fact hit home last week when reading that Strava, the tool I use to track my exercise miles, is now selling its user data to governments to help urban planners understand how and where cyclists use public streets. Oregon is the first customer of the service, called Strava Metro, paying Strava $20,000 to use the data for a year. London; Glasgow; Orlando, Fla,; and Alpine Shire in Victoria, Australia, have also signed up.

While I’ve never made any attempt to keep my Strava data confidential—you can see my full history here if you’re so inclined—I assumed that it was, well, mine.

Rookie mistake.

This would be less troubling if Strava were simply using my data. After all, I’m a free rider on the service. I don’t pay Strava for a premium subscription. I’m the product, right?

But Strava is also using its premium subscriber data for Strava Metro. While the company insists it "processes the data to remove all personal information linked to the user," and goes on to stress that "[t]he data provided through Metro has been anonymized and aggregated to a linear map so that cycling activity cannot be associated with a specific member of Strava’s community," there’s still the question of who owns the data in the first place.

The answer, obviously, is Strava. It peddles what you pedal.

All Your Farm Data Are Belong To Us

Think this is simply a problem for consumer-oriented apps? Think again.

Farmers have been collecting data on their farm operations for at least a decade. Farm equipment increasingly churns out data that is collected on servers, to be used by farmers or the equipment companies. In this scenario, farmers continue to own their data and have the option to opt-out of cloud services provided by the equipment companies.

That was then, this is now. With Monsanto, a giant multinational chemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, on the scene, buying a data analytics company for nearly $1 billion and kicking off its own agriculture analytics service,farmers increasingly worry who owns their data. Monsanto increasingly collects data on individual farms, leading farmers to worry that this data could end up getting sold to rival farms, provide the basis for price discrimination in commodity markets, and other woes.

In theory, farmers can keep all their data to themselves. In practice, however, they can’t, as data on their land is publicly available, as are some data on crop sales. There’s also the risk that farmers who opt out will be mowed under by competitors who utilize Monsanto’s data services.

Can We Buy Privacy?

In this world, farmers still have some flexibility in how they use their data. But what about kids? Data is also being collected on children within schools, potentially mapping the trajectory of their entire academic careers. Google, for its part, electedto stop scanning student emails for advertising purposes, but only in response to a court case.

While government, school and software executives are quick to point to the security of such academic data, data security is as much a chimera as data privacy. Again and again, hackers find a way into credit card and other data. Academic data is no more secure than any other data.

So perhaps this is the lesson: Get over it. That’s certainly the message from the U.S. Department of Education’s first chief privacy officer, Kathleen Styles, who declares, "The only way to make data totally safe is to not ever use it or keep it. That’s not an option."

But perhaps it should be an option not to sell data for those too young to legally opt into having their data commercialized. It also seems like a fair request to expect our personal data to remain ours when we’re actually paying for a service. If I pay for a product, I shouldn’t have to be the product.

Payment should make my data mine.

CopyMySports to Link Garmin Connect and Strava

logo_100x115I want to automatically copy by Garmin Connect information to Strava.  Trying CopyMySports

Garmin Connect keeps my actual precise data and because of its method of calculating the information is more accurate than Strava.  The simple explanation is that Strava has to include phones and “non-Garmin” devices and so is slightly different.  But Strava is more fun, both with sharing, competing over segments, courses, and teams. 

A friend recommended a product called GarminSync which is now being renamed Garmin Connect.  While it is currently having issues, it looks like it could be a good solution until Garmin or Strava catch on to what they should be doing and why.

Be Careful Out There Using Strava

Disclosure: I am a Premium Strava Member who has some KOM and CR achievements on Strava.

Disclosure #2: I own a Garmin watch and find it fun to run and ride virtually with my kids, so I gave them each a watch as well.

I do understand the need for everyone to have someone to blame for their own actions.  Perhaps even my saying that is reckless, but this BBC article on Strava makes me think.  I am wondering if as an individual on the planet I am responsible for my actions?  If so, is using Strava a “Wild West Culture”, or does every luddite use that antiquated description of the Internet?

Heads in the cloud: Strava adapts to tackle reckless racing

By Leo KelionTechnology reporter

Michael Horvath
Strava’s chief executive, Michael Horvath, says his apps target top tier runners and cyclists

Continue reading the main storyThe app is either the best thing to happen to training in years, or it transforms users into inconsiderate egotists more concerned about topping online leader boards than road safety,


Strava markets its apps as a way to track your own progress and to compete against friends


Instead Strava is growing quickly. Its free-to-download software collects data from location sensors in smartphones, sports watches and standalone GPS devices and then uses the information to produce maps of where users have been and tables analysing their performance.


But the product is perhaps best known for its leader boards.

These allow members to compete to be the fastest at covering a segment of road or trail.

Strava has been accused of doing too little to warn users of the risks of cycling at high speeds


Strava screenshot


So, about those tire manufacturers and the lighter, faster tires…..