Popular period tracking apps like Clue, Flo and Cycles can be useful for people trying to get pregnant and people trying to avoid pregnancy alike. But users should be aware that the information collected by these apps could be shared with third parties. And in a time when many states are looking to implement legislation that would make abortion illegal, some privacy experts are worried that the information collected could be used to build a case against a user who seeks abortion care.
Let’s face it most people skim through the terms and conditions associated with downloading an app or just skip over the confusing legal jargon altogether. But when it comes to health trackers, those terms might be worth a closer look.
If the Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe V. Wade decision, as the leaked opinion suggests, access to abortions would be left up to each individual state. And as data from the Center for Reproductive Rights suggests, abortion rights would be protected in less than half of U.S. states and none of the territories. In Louisiana, legislation is advancing that would classify abortion as a homicide in the state. And if a woman is prosecuted, experts fear the information shared in a period tracker, including location data and search histories could be used to build a case against her.
“It is absolutely something to be concerned about — and something to learn about, hopefully before being in a crisis mode, where learning on the fly might be more difficult,” Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow at the Ford Foundation, told The Washington Post.
Period tracking apps have already been in the news for questionable handling of user data. In 2021, Flo reached a settlement with the FTC after being accused of selling user’s information with third parties, including Facebook’s analytics division, Google’s analytics division, Google’s Fabric service, AppsFlyer, and Flurry. Flo also did not regulate how the information was used.
Popular period tracking app Clue, responded to the growing concern in a May 5 Instagram post:
“We’ve received a lot of messages from users who are concerned about how their sensitive health data could be used by US courts if abortion becomes banned. We are based in the EU so your data is protected by GDPR, and we will not disclose it. #roevswade”