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“Period Tracker Apps Under Scrutiny: Data Privacy Concerns Spark Review”

“Period Tracker Apps Under Scrutiny: Data Privacy Concerns Spark Review”

“The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has initiated a comprehensive review of period and fertility tracking apps due to growing concerns regarding data security and privacy. These applications are designed to assist users in tracking their menstrual cycles and provide insights into various period-related health matters, including determining the optimal time for conceiving. However, the ICO has raised red flags concerning the security and transparency of user data handling by these apps.

According to the ICO, survey evidence indicates that many users are becoming increasingly apprehensive about the safety of the data they share and the transparency of the app developers’ practices. In a poll commissioned by the regulator, it was revealed that a significant portion of women, roughly one-third, have utilized period or fertility tracking apps. Among the respondents, 59% expressed concerns about data transparency, and 57% were worried about the security of their submitted information.

The survey also highlighted an intriguing trend – over half of the app users claimed they had noticed a surge in baby or fertility-related advertisements after signing up for these services. While some individuals reacted positively to this targeted marketing, a notable 17% described the experience as distressing.

Emily Keaney, Deputy Commissioner of Regulatory Policy at the ICO, acknowledged the validity of these concerns, stating, “Given the incredibly sensitive and personal information involved, the respondents’ fears are understandable. As with all health apps, we would expect organizations to safeguard their users’ privacy and have transparent policies in place. This review is intended to establish both the good and bad of how the apps are working currently.”

Among the issues that the ICO plans to investigate are whether app privacy policies are needlessly complex or confusing, leaving users uncertain about the extent of data they have consented to share. Additionally, the ICO will assess whether these apps are collecting or storing excessive amounts of data and whether users are being exposed to upsetting targeted advertising they did not agree to.

A previous study conducted by the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps last year revealed that most period trackers share data with third parties. Among the 25 apps examined, only one retained all sensitive data on the user’s mobile device. The organization also identified widespread problems with the way users provided consent for their personal information to be used.

In its efforts to gain a comprehensive understanding of user experiences, the ICO is encouraging app users to participate in a survey available on its website. The regulator is also commissioning focus groups and user testing, with support from women’s health groups.

the ICO has reached out to companies that offer period and fertility tracking apps, including some of the most popular ones available to UK users, to inquire about their data processing practices. The ICO’s survey involved 1,152 UK women aged 18 and above, and its findings are anticipated to shed light on the state of data security and privacy in the realm of period tracking apps.”


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