Did you really go for that ride?

About 15 minutes’ drive from my home a mountain-bike track snakes up a hill into a large area of untapped native forest.

About 15 minutes’ drive from my home a mountain-bike track snakes up a hill into a large area of untapped native forest. This track is perfect for a person wanting to spend time on their bike in solitude away from the rest of the world. Last Sunday I loaded my bike onto my car and set off for a ride. However, to my horror, when I unloaded my bike from the car at the start of the track I realised that I had left my phone at home.

It wasn’t the lack of communication that caused my angst, but the knowledge that I was going on a ride without using Strava (for the non-cycling people out there, Strava is a sports tracking application. You can check it out at strava.com). How could this possibly happen? I was so annoyed, that for a brief second I even considered turning around and going home to get my phone.

The very act of going for a ride without strava-ing it (yes, it has become a verb) was almost a sacrilege. How would the rest of my Strava ‘buddies’ know that I had been for a ride? What if I was on the top of my game and beat a Personal Record? It wouldn’t be recorded! How could I live with myself? It brings to my mind the conundrum about a tree that falls in a forest without anyone around to hear it? Did it actually make a noise?

Did I actually go for a bike-ride if I didn’t leave an electronic trail behind me?

My little story is one of millions of similar stories that people face each day. How many people in your office are currently wearing a fitbit, that is faithfully recording their daily steps? How many have gone the step further and are wearing a GPS enabled device that not only counts the number of steps, but also tracks, records and stores their exact movements?

If we were compelled by our government to wear tracking devices, we would (quite rightly) rise up against such a tyrannical state; but we quite happily spend a lot of our own money on devices that allow private companies to keep track of our movements and even our deepest thoughts. And none of us really have an idea about how these companies use this data.

As I have discussed in a previous post, data is king. If a company holds data on you, your habits and your preferences, they can use this data to make money in any number of ways. Strava for example, “anonymizes and aggregates” data they collect about you and resells it to city councils so they can better plan their urban environments.

You can think of this as a win-win-win-win-win situation:

Win 1 to Strava:

You pay Strava a premium to use their app (Strava makes money)

Win 2 to You:

You get accurate records of how your exercise is tracking (and can show off to your friends)

Win 3 to Strava:

Strava sells the aggregated data to a city council (Strava makes money)

Win 4 to Everyone:

The city council gets to better plan their roads and paths based on how people actually use their city, rather than a best guess

Win 5 to You:

Your urban environment is better suited to your lifestyle

Five wins! Is that such a bad thing?

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