Strava Privacy Zone… a lesson learned

Even though I use a Garmin device to track all my activities, I push all of them from Garmin Connect to Strava. For the most part, Strava is my social network for biking and running activity following. Strava also has a feature called Privacy Zones, and the way that it integrates with third party tools just bit me in the butt tonight. So here’s the tale, and maybe this will clear things up for some other folks.

In addition to Strava, I also use a site called veloviewer.com to do stat analysis. It’s a beautiful playground of maps, charts, and a host of data analytics. I love using it to plot out various things in my activities or do deep dives into different aspects of my performance. Once of the coolest features is that is has a beautiful map that shows you everywhere you’ve ever recorded an activity.

veloviewer map view

Earlier this year I zoomed into my subdivision to see if I had missed tagging any streets in my running adventures. Sure enough, there were a couple of one-off areas that I had never bothered to run down. I set out on a run and tagged what I thought were the final areas. I saved the activity, called it a day and didn’t think much else of it. Then a week or so ago I went back to look around the map and saw that one of the streets I thought I had tagged was still untouched. “Huh” I thought, “That’s weird, I could have sworn I hit that one. Oh well, I’ll hit it tonight.”

Since it was getting dark I just did a quick 3 mile run and called it good. I tagged this particular street and uploaded the run. I logged into veloviewer.com and updated my stats there, took a look at the map, and…. crap, it didn’t work. That’s when I started to dig in a bit deeper. I hovered over tonight’s run and noticed that the map that veloviewer was showing me didn’t stop/start at my house. It was then that I knew Privacy Zones were causing an issue.

In Strava you can set up a Privacy Zone that creates a radius around a specific address and does not show any part of your activity that enters that radius. Other people see your activity starting and stopping at the border of that radius, but if you’re logged in to your account, you see the full map. It’s a good privacy feature, and when it debuted a few years ago I decided to set it up for my home.

Screenshot from Strava website… not my house

However, I assumed that since I connected veloviewer.com to my Strava account, that any information it downloaded from Strava would be identical to what I access on Strava.com. That assumption turned out to be false. It turns out that if you have a Privacy Zone turned on, the map that comes over from Strava into velowviewer is the public map NOT the one that you see on your Strava dashboard. The map on veloviewer will retain your privacy zone as it existed when you uploaded the activity.

To test this, I removed my privacy zone in Strava and re-updated my activities in veloviewer. It showed that I had over 400 updated activities. This obviously corresponded to the number of activities since I had first turned on my Privacy Zone. After re-importing, I checked the map, and sure enough everything was tagged in my subdivision. I then went back to Strava and re-enabled my Privacy Zone, and re-imported again into veloviewer. Now I had over 800 activities to import, and I assumed it would change the veloviewer map to show my privacy zones again, but this time for all my activities. Strangely, it appears that didn’t happen. Perhaps the next time I do an import that will change? Maybe it takes a few hours to update? I’ll check again tomorrow.

Either way, the moral of the story is that if you have Privacy Zones turned on it might be doing something weird to any third-party services you use in conjunction to Strava. If you’re noticing something that doesn’t look right, check out your privacy settings and see if perhaps one of those could be causing an issue.

Jamison

Beer, running, and geeky things.

2 thoughts on “Strava Privacy Zone… a lesson learned

  1. Interesting.
    I guess not exporting a map with your privacy zone makes sense since Strava doesn’t know where the data is going to.
    Does the free version of Strava have the privacy zone feature? I’ve never noticed it, so probably not.

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