Roe V. Wade, Period Tracking apps, Data Privacy and Prosecution concerns of US women   

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When Houston resident Lauren Price, 37  read the leaked draft of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, she emailed her period-tracking app’s customer support team to ask how they were protecting her personal health information.

The Montrose resident, 37, is an activist and data specialist for a local school district, so she worried that law enforcement or others might seek out data while investigating whether someone had an illegal abortion. The prospect is of particular concern in Texas, where a state law allows private citizens to collect a $10,000 bounty in lawsuits against anyone who aids or abets the procedure.

When Price never heard back from that company – Kindara – she decided to stop using the app.

Houston resident Abbie Martinez, 24, began using a tracking app in high school because she had irregular periods. She was using Apple’s Health app when the Supreme Court ruling was released, and ultimately decided to switch to a paper calendar to track her cycle.

Many American women in recent days have deleted period tracking apps from their cellphones, amid fears the data collected by the apps could be used against them in future criminal cases in states where abortion has become illegal.

These concerns are not baseless. As with various other apps, cycle trackers collect, retain and at times share some of their users’ data. In a state where abortion is a crime, prosecutors could request information collected by these apps when building a case against someone. “If they are trying to prosecute a woman for getting an illegal abortion, they can subpoena any app on their device, including period trackers,” said Sara Spector, a Texas-based criminal defense attorney, and ex-prosecutor.

Two of the most popular tracking apps in US , Flo and Clue are both now seen with suspicion by the users.

Although in case of Clue which assures its users that it will comply with and protect its users data as pr GDPR being a European Company. However, question remains if GDPR would be of any use in case of a legitimate prosecution request from a US authority.

In case of Flo ,  which as per an investigative piece by the Wall Street Journal , informed Facebook when a user was on their period or if they intended to get pregnant.

Even on global scale the data shared by such apps is questionable. On June 13, a Spanish tech non-profit called Eticas released a report analyzing the privacy practices of 12 popular fertility apps. The report concluded that only one of them, WomanLog, didn’t sell or share user data under any circumstance.

Other apps like Euki, Stardust and Clover also featured among the top-ranked apps. Euki lets users create a personal PIN to access their data on the app.

Digital rights activists warn that data from period trackers could be used by prosecutors not only in the US, where some federal states were quick to introduce abortion bans after the Supreme Court ruling, but also in Europe, in countries such as in Poland, where terminating a pregnancy is illegal.

“If a woman in the US gets an abortion, authorities could ask [the company behind] the app to provide data that can be used against her,” researcher and founder of the Eticas Foundation, Gemma Galdon, says.

And that data could be something as simple as googling for an abortion clinic.

Source:

Period trackers: How apps exploit your menstrual cycle | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 30.06.2022

Why US women are deleting their period tracking apps | Privacy | The Guardian

Period tracking apps spark data privacy panic after Roe v. Wade (houstonchronicle.com)

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