The concerns are not new. Michele Gilman (Baltimore) and others have been sounding this alarm for some time now. (Read Professor Gilman’s important essay, Periods for Profit and Menstrual Surveillance, 41 Colum. J. Gender & Law 100 (2021) here.)
What is new is the attention that journalists and tech companies themselves are now paying to the lack of privacy when it comes to period trackers and other health-related apps. Consider, for example, a new study by Mozilla, reported over at The Verge:
Most popular period and pregnancy tracking apps don’t have strong privacy protections, according to a new analysis from researchers at Mozilla. Leaky privacy policies in health apps are always a problem, but issues that fall into this particular category are especially concerning now that abortion is illegal in many places in the United States.
Period and pregnancy tracking apps collect data that could theoretically be used to prosecute people getting abortions in places where it’s illegal. Data from period tracking apps isn’t the biggest thing used to tie people to abortions right now — most often, the digital data used in those cases comes from texts, Google searches, or Facebook messages. But they’re still potential risks.
Read the full article at The Verge here.
The interesting question is whether tech companies will take any action in response, or whether they will continue to function as profit facilitators for those who traffic in health data.