October 28, 2021

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FBI promotes fitness app amid coronavirus lockdown, prompting privacy warnings

The FBI logo is seen through an iPhone camera at the bureau's headquarters in Washington, D.C: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The FBI logo is seen through an iPhone camera at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI has used mass lockdowns amid the global coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to promote “indoor workouts” offered by its fitness app, prompting warnings from privacy advocates.

Making use of the trending #MondayMotivation topic on Twitter, the agency tweeted: “Are you looking for tips for indoor workouts? Download the FBI’s Physical Fitness Test app to learn proper form for exercises you can do at home like pushups and sit-ups.”

The free app is available for download through the FBI’s website for both iOS and Android devices, offering users the chance to learn how to “train like an agent”. It offers video tutorials and guidance on how to pass the agency’s fitness test, with requirements for a good score ranging from completing 58 sit-ups in one minute, to running 1.5 miles in less than 9 minutes.

The FBI’s website claims the best way to use the app is by enabling location and movement tracking. ”Use your phone’s GPS and accelerometer for a more realistic PFT experience,” it states.

Privacy advocates were quick to warn users to avoid the app, with digital rights group Fight for the Future tweeting in all-caps: “Do not — and we cannot stress this next part enough — download this app.”

Non-profit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen warned: “Looking to get ripped while ceding your location data to the FBI? Boy, do we have the app for you.”

The app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times on Google Play, despite warnings from some reviewers about the potential risks involved.

“Really think hard about whether you want to give a law enforcement agency warrant-free access to the GPS on your phone,” one reviewer wrote.

Another warned: “This app is a Trojan Horse app and absolutely only exists to steal your information. Do not download this app, look at the app permissions … This is shameful.”

In a 2018 press release announcing the app’s release, the agency claimed that it “does not collect personal user data”.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “The app does not gather or save any personal information other than what you select for your profile. This information is stored solely on your phone, and it is not transmitted to, or saved by, the FBI.”

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