Period tracking apps should focus on protecting user data

A phone with a period tracking app open with glitches

Dylan Burkett/The Cougar

Period tracking apps are losing high volumes of users due to potentially selling their data. 

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, several states are planning to severely limit or completely ban abortion. While some states still offer protection and provide abortion services, many red states are quickly implementing laws outlawing the procedure. 

Texas is one of those few red states with an implemented ban on abortion. Their infamous trigger ban at 6 weeks was planned to shift to a complete ban in 30 days but a judge ruled that abortions can still occur. 

With abortion now considered a criminal charge in some places, many Americans are deleting their tracking apps despite promises from companies to protect user data.

The Flo app has over 43 million users while the popular Clue app has over 12 million users. Despite their popularity, these numbers have been swiftly dwindling for the past month. 

Over a third of American citizens who experience periods currently, or have, used a period tracking app to log cycles, track fertility windows and monitor pregnancies. 

To add on, with companies implementing third-party trackers, many Americans worry their data will be used against them if brought to court.

Flo, the most used period tracking app, has since released a statement claiming it will be releasing an anonymous mode for users that would no longer have their personal information linked to their account.

However, many users are wary of the company since it was involved in a scandal last year over selling user information.

Meanwhile, Clue promises to keep user information private as they are not under American jurisdiction; however, lawmakers claim if the information is requested as evidence for a court ruling, the company will more than likely comply. 

Director of Fight for the Future Evan Greer warns that being on any app that sells user data and tracks location can be used in a hearing. 

With that in mind just deleting your period tracker may not be enough. 

Moreover, states like Texas are incentivizing citizens to report both each other and medical practitioners for getting or administering an abortion. 

Payments starting at just $10,000 are being offered to citizens who can successfully convict and sue an abortion provider.

Yet, not all is lost for those who do not want to part with period tracking apps.

Consumer reports investigated different period tracking apps to find which provide the most security for users, and the results offer a variety of options.

Out of all the period tracking apps with more than 100,000 installs, only Fertility Friend avoided using third-party trackers. However, the data is stored in the cloud, making it vulnerable and useable for court cases.

Other apps that stored data locally and avoided using third-party trackers were Drip, Euki and Periodical. However, these apps are mostly found on android devices, though Drip plans to release an iOS version in August of 2022. 

Despite this, Americans are still advised to delete period tracking apps off their phones, especially if they are residents in states such as Texas which have completely banned abortion. 

Though, for those still wanting to use an app, Drip, Euki and Periodical are safe options. 

However, Americans should not be responsible for the lack of privacy the apps offer and should not feel required to remove the apps from their phones.

Apps like Drip show that it is possible to create reliable and valid data for users without putting privacy at risk or profiting off these users’ fears.

Instead, companies should be the ones making a change, especially if they are wanting to keep their users.

The health of Americans’ should be kept safe and private without the interference of government and third-party trackers. 

Sarah Elise Shea is a freshman English literature major who can be reached at [email protected]

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