Why have the apps to monitor the menstrual cycle become a problem for American women?

The apps to monitor the menstrual cycle are real health diaries: not only do they allow to record the dates of the cycle, but also any delays and unprotected relationships. Data that, in the United States where abortion has become illegal, could be used to start criminal proceedings. This is why in the last few days, since the Supreme Court of the USA has revoked the federal law to abortion, in particular overturning the historic sentence "Roe Vs. Wade ”of 1973 which legalized the right to interruption of pregnancy, many American women are hurrying to uninstall these apps from their cell phones. This is because, in the states where the interruption of pregnancy goes against law, public ministries may request the information collected by the apps. American women are thus organizing to run for cover, aware that in many states - half, analysts say, about twenty republican states have already approved or are ready to launch laws that eliminate the right of choice of women , democratic states should instead maintain legislations that allow abortion - soon it will be against the law to terminate pregnancy.

Meanwhile, as a first provision, the population is deleting the apps for monitoring the menstrual cycle from their phones, driven by the fear that the state can access data on body, menstrual cycle thus going up to their possible pregnancy and their possible abortion. It is not pure science fiction, unfortunately: as the Guardian, in a state in which abortion is a crime, public ministries could request the information collected by these apps during the investigations (even if the company is based abroad, among other things). "If they are trying to pursue a woman for having illegally aborted, they can sue any app present on their device, including those of cycle monitoring".

Almost an in three American woman uses these apps to monitor menstruation, which are useful in many respects, from family planning, to detecting the first signs of health problems, up to the choice of the most suitable moment for a holiday.

But how protected are the data stored on these apps? Each company has its own privacy policy, but according to a 2019 study published on British Medical Journal, 79% of the health apps available on Google Play Store regularly share user data. It is also possible that, since then, the apps have changed politics. For example, the clue app for cycle monitoring (based in Berlin and is one of the two most popular in the USA together with Flo), declares not to archive sensitive personal data without the explicit consent of the user and to be " committed to protecting »the private health data of users, operating according to the rigid European GDPR laws (General Data Protection Regulation, the Privacy Guarantor).  But, al Guardian, the lawyer Lucie Audibert, of the NGO Privacy International, explains that "only because the data are processed by a European company, it does not mean that the app is completely immune to the US criminal action". When it comes to a legitimate legitimate request from the US authorities, European companies usually follow each other. In addition, a European company could host data outside the European Union, making it subject to different legal paintings and cross -border agreements.

The Flo app on its site ensures that it only uses data "for research activities". In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reached an agreement with Flo, according to which the app must obtain the user authorizations before sharing the information on personal health. Flo has announced that it will soon launch an "anonymous mode" to maintain user data safe in any circumstance.

Evan Greer's advice, deputy director of the group for the protection of Fight for the Future digital rights, to protect sensitive health data is to use only apps that archive the locally instead of cloud data, even when this implies more research at the level of information.


Simona Danos

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