Are you using a period tracking app for your menstrual cycle? Be careful!
While you’re tracking your cycle, health data, moods, even sexual activity and medications, most apps out there are tracking YOU.
Most fertility apps (as well as fitness, health and diet apps - and any free app that asks for personal data) are likely to be selling the personal information about your fertility and sexual life to the highest bidder. It’s not usually research companies that are purchasing this data either, it’s big corporations with marketing interests and government agencies interested in monitoring your fertility and sex life.
How Your Private Life is Being Sold
I recently got an email from a popular period tracking website asking me to promote their information with my community. I was shocked however when I read that they were tracking hundreds of thousands of women’s fertility information each month through their site and claimed they recorded over 3000 pregnancies in the last 30 days. This made me wonder WHY they were tracking that data, what they were using it for, and whether their customers were aware of that.
Have you ever experienced, or heard of a woman friend complaining of, being marketed to online with pregnancy and baby advertisements before they even announced they were pregnant? Companies are tracking you. There are many ways of doing this, and health and lifestyle apps are a big one.
This led me to uncover some astonishing privacy issues related to menstrual, fertility and health apps. There are now a deluge of free apps for menstrual cycle and fertility calculation that invite you to enter your personal information, often encouraging the sharing of even more private data than it really necessary, saying that it will help to calculate your info better. However, what they're are really doing is mining for more information to sell, including your weight, height, sexual activities, tampon usage, what food you ate, beauty products used, medications, etc.
Data collection from period tracking apps are at a premium value right now and sold to the top bidder, or shared with affiliate vendors, for marketing research and advertisement targeting purposes.
There are huge ethical issues at stake with what fertility tracking software and apps are doing with their data, as now anyone with basic tech skills or money to hire a developer, can create an app to gather your most private information that was previously only known to you. There are so many ways companies can monetize this information and it's important to be a conscious consumer.
Ensure Your Privacy
Consider that if you are using a free app created by a for-profit tech company, they must be making money somehow. How are they profiting off of you being a customer?
While I have checked out many menstrual tracking apps over the years, I have personally found that I keep going back to tracking my cycles with paper calendars. That is always a safe and private way to track your menstruation and fertility.
I also highly recommend learning more about the Fertility Awareness Method.
Best Choices for Fertility Tracking
For those who want the accuracy of technology in tracking your cycle to know when you most likely to be fertile or ovulating, but also want to ensure privacy, I now recommend the Daysy fertility monitor.
There is so much information within our menstrual cycles regarding our fertility, energy, health, emotions, mood and more. Tracking your cycle can help you to plan or prevent pregnancies as well as knowing the best times of the month to plan events, social occasions, trips or big work projects based on your energy or desires.
I highly encourage women to track your cycles! Just be wary of who you are sharing your information with and how they are using it.
Since publishing this post two days ago about how period and fertility tracking apps are collecting large amounts of private data about women's most intimate lives with the GOALS of monetizing our data - it's had an interesting response on social media! LOTS of positive and shocked comments, and a few disbelieving or skeptical people.
Well here's more proof...
The day after I published my blog, the Guardian published this excellent article on the "Fitbit for your period: the rise of fertility tracking" - which details how fertility tracking apps are now the #1 most downloaded health app online and how the main companies are all tech companies with $10 - 25 million in venture capitol off the start, with the focus to collect as much data of women's personal lives as possible.
It explains how these fertility tracking tech companies must sell data unless they have a physical product to sell instead. They also detail some of why this mass collection of personal data is a complicated privacy and ethical issue, with little legal guidelines in the app industry as to what they can do with our data. Want to know more?
While there are some small amounts of good research being done with this info, the majority of it is being used for the most money making purposes, and the companies creating these apps are huge investor backed tech companies with one focus - generating payouts for their investors.
And remember - you are whole, complete, smart, and intelligent, you don't need technology to know your body. While new technological advances in fertility tracking can be valuable in many ways, know that women have also been tracking their cycles for millennia, without apps, and you can too. Find the right method for you, and be savvy about your privacy.