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Home » Popular fertility apps engage in widespread data misuse including gender, period, and pregnancy

Popular fertility apps engage in widespread data misuse including gender, period, and pregnancy

Popular fertility apps engage in widespread data misuse including gender, period, and pregnancy

Popular fertility apps engage in widespread data misuse including gender, period, and pregnancy. New research reveals serious privacy gaps in fertility apps used by Australian consumers. Also highlighting the need for urgent privacy law reform.

The spawn app offers several features. For example, they can help users track their menstrual cycle, identify a “conception window” if they are trying to conceive. Also, track the various stages and symptoms of pregnancy, and prepare for pregnancy parenting until the birth of the baby.

These apps collect extremely sensitive data about a consumer’s sex life, health, emotional state, and menstrual cycle. And many of them are intended for children ages 13 and up.

My report published today analyzed the privacy policies and messages. Also settings of 12 of the most popular fertility apps used by Australian consumers (excluding apps that require a connection with a wearable device).

This analysis uncovered a number of concerning practices by these apps including:

  • confusing and misleading privacy messages
  • a lack of choice in how data are used
  • inadequate de-identification measures when data are shared with other organizations
  • retention of data for years even after a consumer stops using the app, exposing them to unnecessary risk from potential data breaches.

The data collected

The apps in this study collect intimate data from consumers, such as:

  • their pregnancy test results
  • when they have sex and whether they had an orgasm
  • whether they used a condom or a “withdrawal” method
  • when they have their period
  • how their moods change (including anxiety, panic, and depression)
  • and if they have health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.

Some ask for unnecessary details, such as when a user smokes and drinks alcohol, their education level. Whether they struggle to pay their bills if they feel safe at home, and whether they have stable housing.

They also track which support groups you join, what you add to your “to-do list” or “questions for the doctor”, and which articles you read. All of this creates a more detailed picture of your health, family situation, and intentions.

Misleading or misleading privacy notice

Consumers should expect to receive the clearest information about how this data is collected, used, and disclosed. However, we found that some of the messages were confusing or misleading.

Some apps say “We will never sell your data”. However, the fine print of the privacy policy has a provision that allows them to sell all of your data as part of an app or database sale to another company. This possibility is not just theoretical. Of the 12 apps included in the study, one was previously taken over by a pharmaceutical development company, and the other two by a digital media company.

Other apps explain privacy settings using language that makes it virtually impossible for consumers to understand what they’re choosing. Obscure privacy settings by making them multiple clicks and scroll out of the main screen.

Holding sensitive data for too long

The major data breaches of the past six months highlight the risk of companies keeping personal data longer than necessary.

Violating highly sensitive sexual health and activity information can lead to discrimination, exploitation, humiliation, or extortion. Most of the apps we analyzed retain user data for at least three years after the user leaves the app – or seven years for a brand. Some applications do not indicate when user data will be deleted. 

I can’t rely on “de-identification”

Some apps also don’t give consumers a choice about whether their “anonymous” health data will be sold or transferred to other companies for research or commercial purposes. Or, the consumer has opted-in to these additional uses by default, forcing the user to opt out.

In addition, some of this data is not truly anonymized. For example, deleting your name and email address and replacing them with a unique number does not constitute anonymity for legal purposes. Someone will only have to associate your name with this number to associate your entire file with you. When supposedly anonymous Medicare records were released in 2016, researchers at the University of Melbourne showed how just a few data points could link an anonymous record to a single individual.

Need reform

This study highlights the unfair and dangerous data practices that consumers suffer when using fertility apps. And these findings reinforce the need to update Australia’s privacy laws.

We need to improve the data covered in the Privacy Act, the choices consumers can make over their data, data usage is prohibited, and companies must have systems in place. security.

The government is inviting submissions on possible privacy law reforms until March 31. In the meantime, if you’re using a fertility app, there are a few steps you can take to reduce some of the privacy risks:

  1. when you launch the app for the first time, don’t agree to have your data tracked or you can restrict ad tracking through your iPhone device settings
  2. do not log in via a social network account
  3. don’t answer questions or add data you don’t need for your own purposes
  4. do not share your Apple Health or FitBit data
  5. if the app offers privacy options, choose not to track and sell or use your data for research purposes and delete your data when you stop using the app
  6. Remember that every article you read and the time you spend on it, as well as any groups you join and comment on, can be added to your profile 슬롯게임 사이트