Think twice about your fertility app

Concerns are growing about the privacy and security of fertility apps, popular among women trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy. The apps, which advise women on fertility by tracking intimate data like sexual activity, aren't necessarily safe.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Think twice about your fertility app - NewsMavens
Woman holding phone, Pixabay

Why this story matters:

Hundreds of thousands of women are using fertility, or menstrual, apps as a form of contraception or as a tool to help them see when they're most likely to get pregnant. Popular in Europe and in the United States, some of its most popular ones such as Berlin-based Clue, and U.S.-based Glow, have tens of millions of users.

But the information put on these apps, though highly intimate, may not be as private as it seems.

Many of the apps have stand-up privacy policies, promising never to share user information with their name on it, and to empower users.

However, there are concerns that some of these apps are not totally secure, and that there are risks that companies may share user data with others.

In a world in which periods are still frighteningly taboo, detailed information about them are undoubtably things women want to keep private. It's important for us to know that these apps -- specifically targeted at those who have periods -- aren't necessarily on womankind's side.

Details from the story:

  • A fertility app "boom" is leading to the sharing of highly sensitive data from millions of women about their menstrual cycles.
  • That data isn't necessarily safe. 
  • A 2017 study found that fertility apps have “serious privacy issues” and, while in some cases they’re useful, warned that women should be aware of the “privacy tradeoffs” of using them.
  • Silicon Valley-based fertility app Glow was found to have breached user data in 2016.
  • Some fertility apps use anonymous data sets for business partnerships and for research. But anonymous data can still be traced to users, experts said.
  • The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into action in all European Union (EU) countries on May 25, will protect users of apps based in the EU.
  • U.S. apps like Glow won't have to conform to the GDPR regulations.
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