Worrying discovery that hundreds of swimming event competitors were tracked by GPS on their phones around Australia and overseas for days afterwards in embarrassing privacy bungle
- Swimmers with the smartphone app had location tracked
- A swim event revealed locations four days after
- Perth to Rottnest Swim app kept tracking them
Swimmers who competed in a cross-channel race have had their locations tracked via the event’s app for another four days after it finished – with organisers apologising for the ‘oversight’.
A smartphone app had kept tabs on the competitors for the day as they took part in the 19km South32 Rottnest Channel Swim that kicked off in Perth last Saturday.
But the app continued its tracking of entrants until Wednesday when screenshots of a live image of participants’ real-time locations was posted to social media.
The app image showed clusters of numbered individuals, teams and support crews on a map scattered across Perth, Australia and other countries after competitors had left the event.
Organisers apologised for not turning off the tracking feature at the end of the race admitting it was due to an ‘oversight’, the West Australian reported.
An app had kept tabs on the competitors for the day as they took part in the 19km South32 Rottnest Channel Swim (pictured) that kicked off in Perth last Saturday
The app continued its tracking of entrants until Wednesday when screenshots of a live image of participants’ real-time locations (pictured) was posted to social media
It was switched off as soon as the organisation was alerted about the blunder, a spokesperson said.
More than 2,500 swimmers had entered the Cottesloe to Rottnest Island race including competitors from 10 countries.
But it is not clear how many of those had their privacy compromised.
Only contenders who had voluntarily signed up to being tracked with their smartphones for the day were exposed in the privacy breach.
Social media lit up over the bungle, with some people commenting the vulnerability of swimmers’ data could lead to strangers accessing their personal details through social media cross-checking.
‘If you’re ever looking for a visual representation of the average person’s privacy and security awareness, that’s a great screenshot,’ one commenter said.
Competitor Christine Murray, who came 16th overall in the solo category, said there were issues even before the event started.
‘It was a bit of a talking point before the race between a few of the swimmers, as we could see many people’s locations two or three days before as well,’ she said.
The app image showed clusters of numbered individuals, teams and support crews on a map scattered across Perth (pictured), Australia and other countries after competitors had left the event
More than 2,500 swimmers had entered the Cottesloe to Rottnest Island race (pictured) including competitors from 10 countries
‘It should be brought to light as it could cause some serious issues.’
She said it was ‘mildly concerning’ as the locations were accurate.
Meanwhile, the iconic event’s organisers said users were able to turn off the location-sharing feature at any time.
The sharing was not required but was highly recommended for safety purposes on the day.
‘We sincerely apologise to participants who may have been impacted by this and will make procedural changes to ensure this does not happen again at future events,’ the spokesperson said.
‘The safety of all participants is the number one priority for organisers of the South32 Rottnest Channel Swim.’