Putting It Out There: Think Before You Sync

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I love to try new apps, especially if they’re free. I love that for just about anything you can dream up, there’s an app (or three) for that.

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But when the apps you use contain your personal information, it’s important to take some safety measures.

RunKeeper friends feed

One of my friends uses RunKeeper to track her workouts. This app lets you share your planned route on social media and (with in-app purchase) broadcasts LIVE maps of your runs or bike rides to your “supporters.”

Yikes.

I like using an app to track my walking workouts. Since I live in a neighborhood with irregularly-sized (and shaped) blocks, it helps me figure out routes with a certain target distance in mind—without having to drive around in the car to measure on the odometer. It also keeps track of my pace and my “personal best.”

While this app uses my phone’s GPS to measure my pace and distance, I do not have it set up to sync with social media of any kind, or with “The Cloud.” I could, but I don’t. All my workout data is stored on my phone. There’s a reason for that.

runkeeper map sample

I don’t need to let anyone know where I’m walking, or that I’m not at home, or how long I’ll probably not be at home. (When I’m done, if I need to brag, I can compose my own tweet, thankyouverymuch, with my time and distance.)

Am I being ultra-cautious? Probably. I’m a worrier by nature. But a recent New York Times article discusses just a few of the security concerns that users of health and fitness apps should consider. This article doesn’t even get into the issues of women who run or walk alone and who use these apps to track their routes, broadcasting their location over Facebook or Twitter.

The bottom line is:  you don’t know who sees it; you don’t know who stores it; you don’t know where that data goes once it leaves your phone.

We tell our kids to be careful about the information they share online—but we share our workout routes to anyone (family member, friend, or stranger) who cares to check the hashtag these apps automatically include with every tweet.

When it comes to your health information and your physical location, my advice is to think before you sync.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2013 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at CatholicMom.com. Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.

1 Comment

  1. Terrific reminder of an important safety precaution Barb. It’s funny – I like to check in places, but typically do it on my way out the door… but we’re raising a generation of kids who are pretty fearless about this stuff. It concerns me too. Great column.

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