The Supreme Court’s leaked early opinion suggests that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. This is devastating news, as abortion is a fundamental right and a vital part of healthcare. To add to this, in an alarming viral Twitter thread, Elizabeth McLaughlin suggested that your personal heath data from your period tracking app can be shared. What’s the link? It could potentially be used to disclose that you’ve had an abortion. So is there a safe period tracker app that doesn’t sell data? Should you find a new app, or just stop using all period apps?
Why Would Period Apps Sell Personal Data?
If this sounds farfetched, the truth is that it has happened already. A data broker used geolocation data to locate people who visited abortion clinics and then shared this information. The entire thread is worth a read, but as McLaughlin explains, “Combine that [period tracking app data] with location tracking information and when you last menstruated and where you are seeking healthcare and you have a target on your back.”
Data is a lucrative business. Many apps sell the information they collect from you, including your location, your health statistics, and your online browsing habits. This data is most often used to target you with ads, but it could be used for darker intentions in the wrong hands.
Flo, a popular period tracking app, has come under fire before for sharing users’ personal data with Google, Facebook, and others. How many times have you seen an ad that made you wonder if your phone is listening to your conversations?
Is There a Period Tracker App That Doesn’t Sell Data?
If it feels like the United States is being pulled into a technologically advanced dark age, you’re not wrong. However, it’s also important not to panic.
The Clue App has been my top recommendation for years for being the most inclusive period tracking app. And their commitment to protecting user data is another reason to love them. They have provided ample evidence that your data will not be sold to or forcibly subpoenaed by the U.S. government. Clue has a free version and a paid upgrade option.
Should You Delete Your Period Tracker App?
You are wise to think critically about who has your data. And for anyone who can get pregnant, consider which app you are using for period tracking, given the current climate.
Read your app’s fine print. If an app doesn’t make their terms of service clear regarding your private data, consider deleting that data and removing the app from your devices. Europe has far stricter data standards than the U.S., and apps built in the EU adhere to those strict data privacy standards.
You can transfer your data manually to a new app if you’d like to preserve the accuracy.
Period Charting IRL
Tracking your period can help you plan events and travel, understand your cycle health and phases, and understand fertility. Apps are convenient for period charting and monitoring fertility, but if you’re worried about your data, you can try a non-digital alternative.
You can find downloadable charts online. Charting can often include noting other phases of your cycle outside of just the date of the first and last day of your period. If you are new to charting and want to better understand your menstrual cycle, Red Moon Gang’s Inclusive Guide to Periods is an excellent resource.
If that sounds too involved, you can just put dots or stickers on your desk calendar to track your period without an app or special charts.
Not everyone wants or needs to track their period, and that’s ok, too. Sometimes crying at a car commercial or having tender breasts is all you need to know that your bag should include your product of choice this week.