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This is why American women are uninstalling menstruation apps

They are real health diaries: on app to track menstruation, women record the dates of the cycle, any delays, unprotected intercourse. Data that, in states where abortion has become illegal, could be used in criminal proceedings. This is why in recent days, especially since Friday when the US Supreme Court revoked the federal right to abortion, many American women are rushing to uninstall these apps from their cell phones. Indeed, where termination of pregnancy goes against the law, prosecutors may decide to request the information collected by apps.

According to a 2019 survey, published by the Kaiser Family Foundationalmost one in three American women use these apps to track their periodswhich are useful in many ways, from family planning, to detecting the first signs of health problems, to choosing the most suitable time for a vacation.

But how secure is the data stored on these apps? Each company has its own privacy policy, but according to a 2019 study published in the British Medical Journal79% of health apps available on the Google Play Store regularly share user data and they are “far from being transparent”. It’s also possible that apps have changed policy since then. For example, theClue app for cycle monitoring (based in Berlin and one of the two most popular in the US along with Flo), declares that it does not store sensitive personal data without the explicit consent of the user and that it is “committed to protecting” the users’ private health data, operating according to the strict European laws of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulationthe Privacy Guarantor).

But, al Guardianthe lawyer Lucie Audibert, of the NGO Privacy International, explains that “just because the data is processed by a European company does not mean that (the app) is completely immune from US prosecution.” “When it comes to a legitimate legal request from US authorities, European companies usually stick to it. Furthermore, a European company could host data outside the European Union, making them subject to different legal frameworks and cross-border agreements ».

The Flo app on its site ensures that it only uses data “for research”, but an article from Wall Street Journal found that the company notified Facebook when a user was having periods or when they planned to get pregnant. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reached an agreement with Flo that the app must obtain user permissions before sharing personal health information. Flo announced that it will soon be launching an “anonymous mode” to keep user data safe under all circumstances.

Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Digital Rights Protection Group Fight for the Future, advice to protect sensitive health data is to use only apps that store data locally rather than in the cloud.

Other stories of Vanity Fair that may interest you:

-The Stories We Are: Letter to my abortion partner

-The right denied: investigation into abortion in Italy

Source: Vanity Fair

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