Protests are happening across the country in response to the Supreme Court’s decision and the looming abortion bans in certain states.
An “anonymous mode” is on the horizon for period-tracking app users.
Data sharing has always been a concern with health apps; an abortion ban heightens legal risks.
Deleting your tracking app isn’t enough — your data must be deleted first.
Period and fertility tracking apps are exploring ways to offer users anonymity after the Supreme Court’s overturned Roe v. Wade, in an effort to protect them from legal action in states where abortions will be banned.
Apps like Flo, Natural Cycles, and Clue are used by millions to track menstruation and fertility. Now users’ personal health information is at risk of being used against them as more states head toward criminalizing abortion.
Data in the cloud is owned by the company, and can be subpoenaed by law enforcement and used to build a case against someone suspected of having an abortion. Information about period irregularities could be evidence in a state where abortion is illegal.
Privacy isn’t a new concern when it comes to period-tracking apps. Flo faced legal action after the Federal Trade Commission alleged the app shared sensitive user data with third parties for advertising purposes, Insider reported.
On Friday, Flo announced its plan to launch an anonymous mode to protect the identity of its users. Another app, Clue, vowed in a tweet to “stand up” for its American users and not share personal data with law enforcement.
“While we share limited user data for our own marketing purposes, we never share personal health data that users track in the app,” a Clue spokesperson told Insider.
Birth-control app, Natural Cycles, also is working on a “completely anonymous experience,” Wall Street Journal reports.
“The goal is to make it so no one—not even us at Natural Cycles—can identify the user,” the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive, Raoul Scherwitzl, told Wall Street Journal.
For those who already added their personal information to the app, each company typically offers information on how to delete data. Just removing the app does not necessarily remove the information recorded.
Flo and Natural Cycles offer an email address for users to request data deletion.
Andrea Ford, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, encouraged users to weigh the risks of their data being shared, with the convenience of using an app.
“If I lived in a state where abortion was actively being criminalized, I would not use a period tracker — that’s for sure,” she told NPR.
Eva Blum-Dumontet, a tech policy researcher, believes the risk of private user data being shared with law enforcement is low, but doesn’t want users to have a “false sense of security,” she told Insider.