Cycling app Strava starts selling user data… but it isn't as evil as it sounds

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Strava, the cycle tracking app, have started selling data on user journeys to cities around the world – which could lead to better informed urban planning.

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The app, which launched in 2009 quickly became a hit amongst cyclists as it “gamifies” your commute – you simply leave it logging your journey and it’ll record how long it takes you to perform different sections of the road (for example, how long it took you to cross a bridge). You can then use this data to compare against every other Strava user who has taken on the same location.

What this means is not only is it a fun way to keep track of your cycling progress, but en masse, once uploaded to the Strava cloud, this data could be synthesised into useful information. The Daily Telegraph reports that so far the city of Portland, Oregon has licensed their data to use – with other reports claiming London and Glasgow have already paid up.

What this will give the likes of Transport for London is information on how the roads are actually being used. This could mean infrastructure could be adjusted based on more concrete evidence that occasional surveys and best guesses. (Speaking as a bitter cyclist, hopefully they’ll use the data to realise that they need to start taking cycling seriously.)

Crucially, all of the data sold will be anonymised – and this provides an extra source of income for the company, which could mean they can remain profitable whilst keeping the core product free to cyclists. (Currently you can pay for extra stuff, freemium style).

Personally, I’m hoping the relief data will be used to good effect. Maybe Google can license the data and build a cycle route planner that doesn’t recommend routes which involve going up massive hills?

James O’Malley

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