How the Recent US Supreme Court Decision Impacts Period Tracker Apps and Data Sharing

The debate surrounding abortion in America seemed to be more or less settled in 1973 when the Roe v Wade precedent was established. In spite of the fact that this is the case, the US Supreme Court recently announced the widely controversial decision to state that abortion is no longer going to be considered a constitutional right. This has the potential to have widespread implications because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up making abortion illegal in about half of the states in the US.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that these implications are not just restricted to those that want to have an abortion but can no longer get access to one that would be safe. It will also impact people that use fertility apps to track their monthly cycle, since the sensitive data that these apps collect will be even more under the radar.

The practice of data sharing and swapping is commonplace in the industry, but it can be extremely risky in the current political climate especially with so many states in the US turning abortion into a prosecutable offense on par with murder. There have been quite a few period tracking apps that shared data with other companies, such as Ovia Health which shared data about workers with employers as well as Flo which disclosed data to major tech corporations like Google.

Some users took to Twitter to take this practice of sharing data widely to its logical conclusion, namely that the US government could obtain period data. This could lead to them knowing when someone is pregnant if the data shows that they missed a period, and they might prosecute the individual if this missed period does not result in them giving birth to a baby.

It’s not just the US government that people are worried about either, since the sheer quantity of data that these apps collect as well as the relative centralization of their storage make them active playing grounds for cyber criminals. Data pertaining to periods is some of the most sensitive and personal data out there, and cyber criminals might be looking to capitalize on that.

The final culprit is neither the government nor any bad actors, but rather the industry itself. Apps that help people track their periods can’t blatantly swap data that might result in the individual seeing specific ads related to conception. This is a nightmarish scenario in which the only winners are the app developers themselves, and countless users have started to delete their period tracking apps for this reason.

We might see a lot of people switching to the more old school method of keeping track of their periods by using a pen and paper. It might be old fashioned and not very technically sound, but at least the government or cybercriminals wouldn’t be able to access it. Period tracking apps need to change if they want to start operating more sustainably and with the safety of their users in mind, otherwise their data could be used to do all sorts of harm.

H/T: CyberNews

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