STRAVA Privacy Zone – EXACTLY How Does It Work?

You probably know that you can define a circle of privacy around your home to mask the starting and ending points of your activities on STRAVA. I’d always thought that someone with bad intentions could fairly easily circumvent this masking, so I’ve always had my the5krunner account on STRAVA set to be fully private.

But last year STRAVA introduced some new functionality to address privacy concerns so I decided to look into it in a little bit more detail.

First up I’d say it is a good idea for EVERYONE to set a PRIVACY ZONE. When you hit those KOMs/QOMs then you could be on STRAVA’s public leaderboard and an intrigued bike thief might sensibly deduce that a rider of your quality had at least one bike worth stealing. Indeed where I live, in South West London, most of my cycling buddies each have AT LEAST two bikes that are worth stealing…and some have had them stolen although I would NOT blame STRAVA for those thefts at all (Google’s Satellite imagery of pain sheds?…maybe!!).

Update your privacy in STRAVA here: Settings> Privacy Controls

You can see in STRAVA that you can make general privacy changes to allow anyone, no-one or just your followers, to see what you’ve been up to in 4 main areas of PRIVACY which apply to your PROFILE PAGE, ACTIVITIES, FLYBYs and GROUP ACTIVITIES. However, these privacy setting are not the subject of this post. For the PRIVACY ZONE settings, you need to scroll down a bit from those 4 main settings.

What Is The STRAVA Privacy Zone?

The STRAVA Privacy Zone covers an area where your rides are hidden to everyone but you. It specifically applies to runs and rides that either start or end in your Privacy Zone. It gets even better as you can have multiple Privacy Zones, each of differing sizes.

Here’s an example of the likely setting of Prince Harry, if he were a STRAVA user. Clearly, he will have an expensive bike and will definitely need to create privacy zones around Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, Buckingham Palace and, of course, the Sandringham Estate. The image below shows how he would add that Privacy Zone to Sandringham for a half a mile. No doubt he is very good at maths and would guess that 5/8 mile is probably a kilometre – handy knowledge for everyone outside of America under the age of 50 who is neither good at fractions nor multiplying by 1.6093

With the exception of the issues surrounding naughty paparazzi, that’s almost all there is to it. You just add a postcode and distance. For those of you not lucky enough to have the most-awesome British Postcode system (it’s all that’s left of the empire) you can enter an address like “The White House, Washington DC“. If Google Maps could pinpoint the address you give then I would hope that STRAVA can do the same.

Unfortunately, my runs and rides can go off in all directions from my home and I once viewed some of my STRAVA rides when logged in as a friend. At that time it was, sort of, possible to work out where I lived from the focal point of all of these activities.

That’s why STRAVA came up with an ingenious solution to modify the original PRIVACY ZONES to instead centre the ‘circle of Invisibility’ around a random point near to your address. That’s the key thing…the new centre of the circle is chosen at random (and within a certain distance).

There is also the option to REGENERATE the privacy zone and doing this will effectively request STRAVA to create a new privacy circle around a NEW random point. I have used this as one of my better leaderboard performances on my real account is close to where I live and sometimes it is obscured by this setting. So I keep regenerating until I’m happy with the privacy circle.

Simple.

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Justin
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Justin

Garmin internally offers this too. There isn’t much control over the range (I think it’s 1/4 mile/.4km), but it’s better than nothing. Though, still basically gives anyone the gist of your home address if your residence is tightly packed with other homes.

Martin
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Martin

why bother with random zone? Just select a point 5/8mile away from your home and make 1 mile zone diameter

Soap
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Soap

Because that would mean a significant part of many urban resident’s runs are inside the privacy zone.

I just tried this after downloading my last 100 runs from http://www.jonathanokeeffe.com/strava/map.php
and over 50% of my 5K route is inside that circle, and over 33% of my 10K route is… and that’s with me moving the 1mi circle due east, a direction I don’t run.

Nate C
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Nate C

The real question is whether track points inside the privacy zone are included in the fit/gpx file download that one can obtain by using one of many Javascript bookmarklets on any strava activity page. I haven’t tested this myself but assume they are probably masking at the display level and still probably leaking location data.

Soap
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Soap

I’m curious – got one of these bookmarklets in particular you’re thinking of?

Nate C
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Nate C

https://mapstogpx.com/strava/

This is one I think I’ve used before to download someone else’s activity and transfer to my Garmin to create a route.

Soap
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Soap

Hmm, it requires I be logged in to Strava to run the script. I’ll need to create a second Strava account to test.

Soap
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Soap

Made another account, tested.

The downloaded .gpx using the https://mapstogpx.com/strava/ bookmarklet is exactly the same as the display, so no data leakage there.