It’s important to stay physically active during a COVID-19 quarantine, and your neighborhood FBI office has a suggestion.
Over the past few days, dozens of regional FBI offices have tweeted the same message about the FBI Fit Test app: “Looking for a new fitness routine you can try at home? Download the #FBiFitTest app and see what it's like to train like a #SpecialAgent.”
Participants can learn what it’s like to do push ups, pull ups, a 300-meter sprint and a 1.5-mile run. They can also give the FBI's app easy access to the sensitive data on their phone.
Not mentioned in the bureau’s tweets are the permissions Android users must give the app, including the ability to track users’ locations using GPS and network data. The FBI Fit Test app also allows the bureau to view, modify, and delete pictures and other media files; view wifi connections; control vibration; and prevent a device from sleeping, according to the permissions listed on the Google Play store.
Privacy advocates quickly jumped on the bureau’s opportunistic promotion campaign.
“DO NOT -- AND WE CANNOT STRESS THIS NEXT PART ENOUGH -- DOWNLOAD THIS APP,” tweeted Fight for the Future.
The app, which was released in 2018, has been downloaded more than 10,000 times from the Google Play Store. The iOS version, which doesn't require as many permissions by default (though it claims it can use your GPS location to "auto-detect" run distances), is currently the sixth most popular app on the App Store's "reference" category.
"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," an FBI spokesperson told Motherboard in an email.
The FBI offers several other apps, all of which allow a suspicious amount of access to your phone’s data. These include the FBI Child ID, which allows users to store pictures and measurements of their children in case they go missing; the FBI Dashboard, from which users can submit tips; and FBI Bank Robbers, which provides information about wanted bank robbers.
It's possible the fitness app is just a harmless and poorly-conceived PR stunt. But much like the police department that offered to test peoples’ meth for coronavirus, it’s probably best if people looking to improve their fitness routine seek help elsewhere.
Update: This piece was updated to include a comment from an FBI spokesperson.