Why American Women Are Deleting Their Period Apps (2023)

Lots of American women have removed period-tracking apps from their phones in recent days over concerns that data collected by the apps could be used against them in future criminal cases in states where abortion has become illegal.

Advertisement: What would the end of abortion rights in America mean for the world? Join our live discussion on Wednesday, July 6, 3-4pm ET. The button says "Book tickets here"

The trend began last month when a draft Supreme Court opinion suggested the court should set aside Roe vs. Wadeleaked, and has only gotten worse since court on Fridaywithdrawnfederal abortion law.

These concerns are not unfounded. Similar to several other apps, bike trackers collect, store and share some data from their users. In a state where abortion is a criminal offense, prosecutors may request the information she has collected Use these apps when starting a case against someone. "If they're trying to sue a woman for an illegal abortion, they can sue any app on their device, including period tracking," said Sara Spector, a Texas-based criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

"But every company has their own storage and privacy policies about how they use data and how long they keep data," says Spector added.

Bike trackers are popular for a reason. Almost a third of American women use them, according to a 2019 reportquestionnairepublished by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They've made women's lives easier in so many ways, from planning a family to spotting the early signs of health problems to finding the perfect time to take a vacation.

TikTok is trying to allay fears as workers in China have been given access to US users' data. Read more

A study from 2019published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) revealed that 79% of health apps are available through the Google Play Store Those associated with medications, including apps that help with medication management, medication compliance, medication or prescribing information, regularly shared user data and were "far from transparent." But many of the big players have made strides in recent years.

Why American Women Are Deleting Their Period Apps (1)

Two of the most popular period trackers in the US, Flo and Clue, have over 55 million users combined. Berlin-based app Clue said it is "committed to protecting users' personal health information" and operates under strict European GDPR laws. The company's website states that in addition to a user's IP address, health status, and sensitive data, the app also collects device data, event, and usage data, which they use to improve the app and the Services, and to prevent abuse of the service can. However, Clue does not track users' precise locations and does not store sensitive personal information without the user's explicit consent. The company also tweeted that it has a "overriding legal obligation" under European law not to disclose personal health information and that it "will not respond to disclosure requests or attempted subpoenas of its users' health information by US authorities."

But just because data is processed by a European company doesn't mean it's completely immune from US prosecution, said Lucie Audibert, a lawyer atprivacyInternational, a global NGO researching, litigating and advocating for the misuse of technology and data by governments and corporations.

“The fact that the GDPR applies is not that relevant in this case. When it comes to a legitimate legal request from US authorities, European companies usually comply. Also, a European company can host data outside of the EU, making it subject to different legal frameworks and cross-border agreements,” added Audibert. She also stressed that using a Europe-based app does not protect women from courts requesting data directly from them. However, it may be a slightly better option than a US-based option because US companies are more easily compelled to comply with US government and court requirements. Enforcement is more difficult against Europeans.

Flo has come under criticism for previously sharing its users' data. The company states on its website that it only uses data "for research purposes" and only uses "anonymized or aggregated data that cannot be assigned to specific users". But oneresearch pieceThe Wall Street Journal discovered that the app would notify Facebook when a user was on her period or planning a pregnancy. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) achieved aAgreement with Flo. As part of the settlement, Flo must undergo an independent review of its privacy practices and obtain user consent before sharing personal health information. Flo did not admit any wrongdoing.

Flo on Fridayannouncedthat an “anonymous mode” will be introduced soon, which can help to protect users' data under all circumstances.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Stardust, a relatively new astrology-focused period tracker, became the most downloaded free app on iOS in the days following the Supreme Court decision. Stardust's Twitter bio says it's a "first-period privacy tracking app." But ifTruck NewsAs reported, the company stated in its privacy policy that if authorities ask for user data, it will comply, whether required by law or not. It said the data was "anonymized" and "encrypted."

“We may share your anonymized, encrypted information with third parties to protect the legal rights and security of the company and users of our services; enforcement of our Terms of Service; prevent fraud; and to comply with or respond to any law enforcement or judicial process, or request for cooperation, by any government or other entity, whether required by law or not," Monday's privacy policy said.

In response to Vice's request for comment, Stardust amended its privacy policy, dropping the phrase about working with law enforcement "whether or not required by law" to "when required by law."

Stardust did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Planned Parenthood encourages people to use their Spot On app. "People who want to track their periods and use birth control always have the option to remain anonymous by using the Spot On app without creating an account," the organization said in a statement. "As a result, menstrual or contraceptive data is only stored locally on a person's phone and can be deleted at any time by uninstalling the app."

Third-party apps aren't your only option when it comes to period trackers. Apple has a built-in bike tracker in its Health app, which offers more privacy than most third-party apps. With just a fewstepsOne can opt out of storing their health data in iCloud and also has the option to save the encrypted data on their computer or phone.

Evan Greer, associate director of nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future, said The best way to protect sensitive health data was to only use apps that store data locally, not in the cloud. "Because any app where a company [that could get a subpoena] has access to its users' data could make it vulnerable to a legal request."

Why American Women Are Deleting Their Period Apps (2)

Eva Blum-Dumontet, tech policy advisor, said: "It's normal for people to have a different view of technologies and apps that we trust during times of concern."

"I think if there's any debate about whether women should get rid of these apps, we need to think about why they're using them in the first place," Blum-Dumontet said. "These trackers help them manage their menstrual cycle when they're in pain."

Blum-Dumontet emphasized that it's not users who should change their behavior, but "period trackers who should change their practices."

“They should never have had so much data in the first place. If they adopted practices like storing data locally and minimizing data to what was strictly necessary, we wouldn't be having this debate now. "It's not too late for them to do the right thing," she said.

"The companies that capitalize on women's bodies need to think very carefully about how they protect their users," she continued.Not all of them have historically been the best when it comes to data sharing. The only way to survive and be trusted in this market is to improve their privacy policies and give users more control over their data," she said. "If any of these apps are used in court against their users, it's not good PR for them."

Melissa, a 27-year-old Texas mom who uses only her first name to avoid jeopardizing her job, said she removed the app because she fears her state could use her missed period data against her if she out of town.

“I will miss using the app very much. I've used it for so many things from tracking my ovulation to predicting my mood swings. Sometimes I wake up feeling irritable and don't know why until my app tells me it might be normal at this point in my cycle," she added. Melissa also says she would have liked to use it for future conceptions, but now she can't.

While many of Friday's alerts focused on period trackers, these aren't the only apps that can be used in criminal charges against users. experts warned.

"Google Maps or any other game on your phone can be used against someone just as easily as a period tracking app," Greer said. "While we should educate each other and take precautions, it's not okay to shift responsibility to individuals alone. Businesses and lawmakers must act immediately to protect people.”

Period tracking concerns are part of a broader discussion about the amount of personal data smartphones collect. Women's rights organizations around the world are warning users to be more aware of their digital presence, and not just when it comes to period trackers.

Cycle tracking apps can be extremely helpful for many women, says Jonathan Lord, UK medical director of MSI Reproductive Choices. "But any data can be used against you."

According to Lord, this danger will remain until "we treat abortion like any other health care - regulated like any other medical procedure, but not criminalized".


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Last Updated: 06/25/2023

Views: 6331

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Birthday: 1996-05-10

Address: Apt. 425 4346 Santiago Islands, Shariside, AK 38830-1874

Phone: +96313309894162

Job: Legacy Sales Designer

Hobby: Baseball, Wood carving, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Lacemaking, Parkour, Drawing

Introduction: My name is Dean Jakubowski Ret, I am a enthusiastic, friendly, homely, handsome, zealous, brainy, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.