SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A tweet from attorney and activist Elizabeth C. McLaughlin gave a lot of thought to something they had never thought of before. Should they delete their period tracking app?
“If you’re using an online period tracker or tracking your cycles through your phone, quit it and delete your data,” McLaughlin said in the tweet went viral tuesday.
The post was in response to a recently leaked draft that said the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that granted the right to abortion in the United States. Now that he is at risk of being knocked down this summer, McLaughlin warns that people who use period-tracking apps should beware.
“If you think your data showing the date of your last period is of no interest to those who are about to ban abortion, phew, I have a red flag for YOU,” she said. tweeted.
But why should you worry about your data, if you should worry at all?
The data collected by these applications is not protected by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). HIPAA ensures that your doctor cannot share your medical information.
In theory, these apps could sell your information to anti-abortion groups who could then use your information in the event that you choose to have an abortion.
This information could be used as proof that you were late, missed a cycle, or had unprotected sex. All of these things can be reported on many period tracking apps.
Do these apps actually share your data?
the New York Times recently reported that from 2016 to 2019, the company behind popular period tracking app Flo shared intimate health information with Facebook and Google for advertising purposes. This was according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in January.
The complaint said the FTC had reason to believe the app had misled its users in its privacy statement. However, in March 2022, the company released a statement stating that it does not share information with third parties and that it had undergone an audit which showed that it had “no weaknesses in privacy practices “.
A study by a UK non-profit group called Privacy International found that two of many popular period-tracking apps shared information with Facebook and other companies.
However, according to McLaughlin, the concern should not be that these apps share your data, but rather that it can be used in court as evidence.
“It’s not just about selling data,” she tweeted, “it’s about motivated prosecutors who want to criminalize abortion under state law by issuing subpoenas for your data.”
Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, echoed that sentiment in a tweet on Tuesday.
“If you’re in the US and you’re using a period tracker, today is a good day to delete it before it creates a wealth of data that will be used to sue you if you ever choose to have an abortion. “, she tweeted.
So what can you use instead?
If you’re worried about your private data being used, you can always go back to the classic pen and paper method of following your rules. This link from Planned Parenthood shows how to use the calendar method to track your period.
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