In a post-Roe world, fertility and period apps could be weaponized since they have access to private information that could be used against women seeking abortions.
Early in May, when a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade was leaked, activists took to social media to express their discontent with the decision. One of those interesting uproars was by Elizabeth C. McLaughlin, the founder of the Gaia Leadership Project who tweeted the following:
If you are using an online period tracker or tracking your cycles through your phone, get off it and delete your data.
— Elizabeth H.C. McLaughlin (she/her) (@ECMcLaughlin) May 3, 2022
This, of course, sparked a larger conversation about apps and privacy, because up until that point, it hadn’t occurred to anyone that their private data pertaining to their cycles could be used against them.
While there are many different fertility and period monitoring apps on phones, the majority let users manually enter their period start and end dates, use of birth control, cycle duration, and even the moods recorded. Some let users keep tabs on both pregnancies as well as their menstruation cycle. Users can sign in to several apps using their Facebook or Google accounts. Some apps also gather information about geolocations.
“We have received messages from our American users concerned about how their tracked data could be used by US courts if Roe vs Wade were overturned. We completely understand the anxiety, and, frankly, the fury that this has even surfaced as a potential risk to worry about. Navigating our reproductive health journey is complex enough, we should never have to wonder whether surveillance of our private patient data could be used to prosecute us.
As the female Co-CEOs of Clue, we promise you that we will never turn your private health data over to any authority that could use it against you. Your personally identifiable health data regarding pregnancies, pregnancy loss or abortion, is kept private and safe. We don’t sell it, we don’t share it for anyone else’s use, we won’t disclose it. We are governed by the world’s strictest privacy laws (the European GDPR), and we invest a lot of time and expense in making sure we comply with them.”
In a world that seems to not prioritize the reproductive rights of women, period-tracking and fertility apps are a rich source of data that could be used by law enforcement to enforce punishment if abortion gets criminalized.
However, one downside of this is that people who are actively trying to get pregnant will potentially have a hard time using these trackers for fear of a backlash later. This kind of tech fear stems from decisions that don’t put forth the freedom of choice and autonomy for women over their own bodies.
In case you missed it, here are 5 resources for reproductive rights organizations.
Photo via The Verge