Rottnest Swim participants were tracked in real time for four days after they left the water and returned home because organizers failed to turn off a GPS feature on a mobile app.
The flaw was only spotted on Wednesday after Reddit users posted screenshots of the location of swimmers and support crews, identified by bib numbers, who signed up for the tracking app on their smartphones.
camera iconSwim star turned pop star Cody Simpson was one of a string of high-profile Rottnest Channel swim competitors. Photo credit: Instagram/Instagram
Back on the mainland, their movements could theoretically be tracked across Perth, the states and – for the international competitors from 10 countries – even overseas.
More than 2500 swimmers took part in the classic 19.7km ocean swim, but the number uncovered by the breach is not clear as use of the Rotto Swim app was voluntary.
The app allowed spectators and supporters to follow swimmers along the route from Cottesloe to Rottnest Island for the day and provided updates on Saturday’s race.
The GPS tracking function had to be activated via the settings and should be deactivated by the organizers at the end of the race.
However, Rottnest Channel Swim organizers said the feature was not disabled due to an “accident”.
camera iconMore than 2500 swimmers took part in the classic 19.7km ocean swim, but the number uncovered by the breach is not clear as use of the Rotto Swim app was voluntary. Credit: Delivered
There were concerns that disclosing real-time location data of participants’ bib numbers to strangers could facilitate the discovery of more personal information, such as names and home addresses, through social media comparisons.
One Reddit user commented on the photo, “If you’re ever looking for a visual representation of the average person’s privacy and security awareness, this is a great screenshot.”
Other users noted how some of the swimmers traveled from all over the world, with some swimmers’ data being tracked to other countries.
camera iconMore than 2,500 swimmers took part in the classic 19.7km ocean swim, but the number uncovered by the breach is not clear. Photo credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The Sunday Times
This year’s field included Olympic gold medalist Mack Horton and pop star-turned-swimming star Cody Simpson, a Commonwealth gold medalist. Former docker Lee Spurr was also among the large and motley crowd of charity swimmers.
Queensland swimmer Bailey Armstrong took first place for fastest male solo time with a record time of three hours, 48 minutes and 11 seconds. Chloe Truscott of WA was the fastest woman, also with a record time of four hours, 14 minutes and 31 seconds.
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