Women in America are being urged to delete their period-tracking apps after fears that authorities could use them to find out if someone is planning or has had an abortion.
It comes as the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling Roe v Wade that has given women across the country the legal right to terminate their pregnancy for nearly half a century.
It is now up to each state to determine whether women can have legal abortions and 26 states are said to be either certain or very likely to ban them.
If abortion is criminalised, period-tracking apps could have no choice but to share their customers’ most personal data, writes news.com.au.
This could mean that authorities have access to information about whether a woman is pregnant, is considering an abortion or has had an abortion, which, if terminations are criminalised, might be used to prove a person has acted illegally.
In a Twitter post that has gone viral, US author Jessica Khoury wrote. “Delete your period tracking apps today.”
More than 3,000 people have commented underneath, with many expressing their shock that the tracker could potentially put them at risk.
There are also fears a woman’s search history and location data could be used to find out whether she is considering an abortion or has had one.
It is not yet known how far authorities in states planning to criminalise abortions will go to enforce the law.
A period tracking app tells users what day their period starts and ends, allowing it to predict when it will come next, when they are most fertile and if their period is late or if they’ve missed their period altogether.
Deleting app not enough
Some Twitter users said deleting a period tracker app doesn’t get rid of the data and urged people to contact the support team at the app and ask them to wipe it.
Evan Greer of the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, has warned that the government’s ability to track women extended beyond period apps.
“Any app that is collecting sensitive information about your health or your body should be given an additional level of scrutiny,” Greer has said.
“According to the digital expert, if a woman sits in the waiting room of an abortion clinic and plays a game on her phone, that app might be scraping location data and could share it with the government.”
A number of people on social media have suggested using a paper calendar to track their periods instead of using apps.
App owners promise privacy
Meanwhile, some period tracker apps have issued statements saying they would never share their data. Among them is Berlin based app Clue, which has 12 million users.
The company said: “As we are based in Berlin, as a European country, Clue is obliged under European law (the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR) to apply special protections to our users’ reproductive health data. We will not disclose it. We will stand up for our users.”
Period tracker, Stardust, meanwhile said: “In light of the recent news about Roe v. Wade, we want to make our commitment clear to you. We are a women-owned app founded on a belief in freedom of choice and freedom of privacy.
“We do not sell data. We have never sold data. We will never sell data.
“We have encrypted your information to ensure that no governments or companies will ever access data that belongs to you and you alone. It will stay this way forever.”
Another period tracker, Flo, which is based in the US and has 43 million users, has previously been slammed for sharing data with Facebook about their users’ periods and pregnancy plans.
A settlement was reached last year after it was found Flo had misled customers about its privacy policies.
After the Roe v Wade ruling it announced on Twitter, it was going to be unveiling an anonymous mode for users.
“You DESERVE the right to protect your data. We will soon be launching an ‘Anonymous Mode’ that removes your personal identity from your Flo account, so that no one can identify you.”