Is your data secured? Data protection is at risk with the periods tracking applications!
Consumers are ditching their current period tracking apps in favor of what they perceive to be safer options in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that allows individual U.S. states to criminalize abortion. The app switching trend is impacting all manner of period tracking apps, including leading app Flo, which owns a 47% share of the period tracking app market in the U.S., according to data provided by Apptopia. The app may have both lost customers to rival apps while gaining new users from others over the weekend. Other apps are seeing similar trends. After the Supreme Court overturned citizens’ constitutional right to abortion in the US, there has been concern about data protection, particularly in the 13 states which have already moved to make ending a pregnancy illegal.
Millions of people use apps to help track their menstrual cycles. Flo, which bills itself as the most popular period and cycle tracking app, has amassed 43 million active users. Another app, Clue, claims 12 million monthly active users.
The personal health data stored in these apps are among the most intimate types of information a person can share. And it can also be telling. The apps can show when their period stops and starts and when a pregnancy stops and starts. That has privacy experts on edge because this data whether subpoenaed or sold to a third party could be used to suggest that someone has had or is considering an abortion.
Should You Delete Period-Tracking Apps?
It depends on several factors, including if you live in a state where abortion is now illegal if you use a period-tracking app to regularly monitor your cycle, and if you had an abortion. If all ring true, then “it’s possible your period-tracking apps data could be subpoenaed and therefore used against you in court,” Marco Bellin, a data security expert and the founder and CEO of Datacappy VPN (a business dedicated to aiding individuals in preserving their privacy and helping them use the internet securely), says.
Here’s how it works
Because you use period-tracking app data to see when you’re ovulating, track your cycle, and monitor period-related symptoms, it’s possible the data you input could be used to predict when you’d likely fall pregnant. And in the case you have an abortion, “it could possibly be used to prove that an individual became pregnant and eventually did not have a child – or to prove when specifically someone became pregnant,” Bellin says.
Of course, this will heavily depend on what each individual’s state jurisdiction looks like around privacy rules, but David Reischer, Esq., attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, confirms that legally, there is no law in place that would restrict private companies (e.g., period-tracking apps) from turning over data. “Theoretically, private companies could hand the data to big government to be used for prosecution in an illegal-abortion trial.”
How can you protect data?
The EFF has published a privacy guide that includes this advice:
Run a separate browser, phone number, and email address for reproductive matters to minimize location services. When deleting data, make sure the deleted folder is also emptied. As for researching abortion online, Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, believes it’s unlikely that law enforcement will speculatively begin to seek this sort of personal data. “They’re not likely to be going after people who are thinking about having an abortion,” he said. “But if they are gathering evidence after the event, if they have arrested someone – that evidence could then include browser history, emails, and messages.”