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FBI Offers Workout App to Quarantined Americans -- Turns Out It Can Spy on You

FBI Offers Workout App to Quarantined Americans -- Turns Out It Can Spy on You
A woman exercises on a treadmill in the stock image above.
The FBI doesn’t have a particularly good brand image right now. I’d kind of forgotten about that for a while because of something with a worst brand image: coronavirus.
Coronavirus has, among other things, pushed most of our workout activities to our living rooms and that dusty NordicTrack equipment we bought long ago with the best of intentions.
We don’t have anywhere to be at the moment — certainly not the gym — and we’re either using home workout apps or that dusty equipment to either fill the time we’d usually spend at Planet Fitness or doing anything to avoid Planet Fitness.
I’m no different, which is why I’ve gone from the treadmill and the weight machines at my local gym to the (sigh) elliptical at my home. There are few things less manly than the elliptical, and with hot yoga studios and spinning classes all being shuttered, the less manly alternatives are all pretty much out of commission.
One of the manlier alternatives, therefore, might be the FBI FitTest app. Yes, the FBI has an app for that — and you can see whether or not you can play a fed as well as Efrem Zimbalist Jr. did.
“Want to be an FBI special agent or just see if you can meet the physical fitness requirements?” the app’s description on the Google Play store reads.
“Test your fitness level with the FBI Physical Fitness Test app and do push-ups, run, and test your sit-up ability, just like special agents do.
“The FBI’s Physical Fitness Test app provides a detailed, insider look at how to complete each component of the test, including sit-ups, push-ups, a 300-meter sprint, a 1.5-mile run, and pull-ups.”
Sounds pretty exhaustive. One issue: You’re basically giving your location data to the FBI.
There are some things that the FBI FitTest does that are pretty basic.
It has a practice mode or testing mode, depending on if you want to see whether or not you’re truly bureau material.
It’s got a timer, because if there’s anything an app should do, it’s count.
It’s got customized scoring based on gender and video demonstrations based on some of the exercises.
And then there’s this: “Can work with a phone’s global positioning system and accelerometer for a more realistic experience.”
It turns out this, among other things in the app’s permissions, weren’t all that popular with some people on social media:As you can see by clicking on the pictures, these are the permissions the app asks for.They include giving the app access to your “approximate location (network-based)” and “precise location (GPS and network-based).”
They also include giving it access to your photos and files on your USB drive, as well as the ability to receive data from the internet and to view your network connections.
Also at the bottom, in small print: “Updates to FBI FitTest may automatically add additional capabilities within each group.”
This went over pretty well on Twitter, because people clearly aren’t panicky or anything at the moment:The likelihood the FBI is going to use this data to spy on you is, well, remote.
Unless you really believe that the bureau has the ability to track the location of every person using the app and then to figure out which of them weren’t just committing crimes but committing crimes that would warrant the FBI’s attention is remote unless you need to take a) a trip to the tinfoil haberdashery or b) medication.
That said, this is a federal agency that’s essentially shot its reputation. People generally don’t trust authority, and they particularly don’t trust it in the era of James Comey and FISA warrants gone bad.
You don’t want to trust anyone in government with your location, your photos, your data or your network connections. Why would anyone think this was a great branding opportunity? Why would anyone working for the FBI think this was something that needed to be tweeted out on, of all Mondays, this one?
Oh well, one hopes the federal law enforcement and intelligence community has learned from this.
I guess I get to write another one of these articles, huh?
Way to keep your brand up, U.S. federal government. You can’t get any less popular than COVID-19, but this isn’t for lack of trying.

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