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A data buffet: Mozillas overview of pregnancy and period trackers sheds light on data privacy concerns

Amid growing concerns about how exactly data may be used to prosecute women searching for abortion care following Supreme Courts overturning of Roe v. Wade, a fresh report from Mozilla shows how many ways pregnancy and period trackers collect and share advertising-related data along with other info that also may be shared with police.

In accordance with overview of 25 period and pregnancy tracking apps and devices conducted by Mozilla, researchers determined that 18 didn’t meet expectations for privacy and security standards. Instead, they found a data buffet of telephone numbers, addresses, device IDs, IP addresses, unique advertising IDs such as for example Apples IDFA and Androids Google Advertising ID alongside sensitive information on menstrual cycles, sex, doctor appointments and pregnancy symptoms. The report, released on Wednesday, also described how companies collect and share data for personalizing ads some apps didnt offer clear policies about sharing data with police.

Its the end of the iceberg, said Jen Caltrider, lead researcher for Mozillas Privacy Not Included initiative. Literally everything may be used to track somebody seeking reproductive healthcare now When abortion was illegal 50-something years back, the web didnt exist. Now, literally, our whole lives online are increasingly being tracked and exist in the cloud. Yes, these raise concerns, but so a lot of things raise concerns at this time.

The findings come within Mozillas Privacy Not Included initiative, which aims to greatly help consumers make more data-conscious decisions whenever choosing various services and products giving warning labels to apps they could want to think about using. For a long time, the Mozilla Foundation has centered on educating people about privacy problems while also utilizing the topic as a differentiator because of its Firefox browser. The brand new report also provides detailed explainers about each apps policies and practices and will be offering strategies for how users can better protect themselves by changing a number of preferences.

As Roe v. Wade had been overturned, Mozillas team decided it will also look at period and pregnancy tracking apps, especially in a global where abortion is now illegal in a few states. The report follows an identical overview of mental health apps in-may during Mental Health Month, which Caltrider said also revealed horrible types of data collection and sharing.

Although federal law regulates personal health data in the context of healthcare providers, it doesnt protect health data in the context of apps; MEDICAL Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted in 1996, just over ten years prior to the first iPhone premiered. However, growing awareness and concern about how exactly sensitive data could possibly be used against women has made passing a federal data privacy law a straight higher priority. This issue in addition has been section of discussions for the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), which last month reached a major milestone in Congress by moving at night committee stage.

I believe theres been so much heightened knowing of the privacy risks connected with sharing health data because the Dobbs decision came down, said Caitlin Fennessy, vp and chief knowledge officer at the International Association of Privacy Professionals. It did add impetus to the ADPPA and we saw a concentrate on how it addresses sensitive data and the extent to which that could generate protections for folks.

Some apps privacy policies aren’t short. For Ovia Healthwhich shows ads and sponsored content in the free versionMozilla highlights that the online privacy policy is 34 pages long and nearly 12,000 words but claims the app is only going to use an ad profile for individuals who opt-in. However, Mozilla highlights that Ovia lets Facebook collect device information, which might use that data to personalize advertising both on / off Facebookeven in case a person isnt logged in to the social networking through Ovia.

Some apps including Clue, The Bump and WebMD Pregnancy collect or share data with third parties to promote, marketing and research, while some including Baby Center also share info with data brokers and internet sites. Regarding WHAT THINGS TO Expectan app owned by Everyday Health, which also owns the infant Center appMozilla says it collects info from vendors, third parties and public databases and could sell or transfer data to advertisers for serving relevant ads. Researchers also remarked that the My Calendar Period Tracker app shares information with Amazon; they couldnt even look for a privacy policy to examine for another app called Sprout.

Some apps have previously faced legal and regulatory scrutiny. This past year, the Federal Trade Commission settled an incident against Flo Health following the app shared user data with marketing analytics firms including Facebook and Google after promising to help keep information private. Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit filed this past year alleged Flo secretly collected data about users pregnancy attempts that has been then distributed to third-party companies. (Exactly the same lawyers also filed another lawsuit against Meta last month alleging the platform showed personalized ads predicated on existing medical issues.)

The majority of the apps flagged by Mozilla didn’t react to Digiday when asked for a reply concerning the findings. However, a spokesperson for Flo said within an email that the business doesnt share health data externally and that making revenue from user data would not in favor of our core promise to your users. (The spokesperson also noted Flo completed an external, independent privacy audit in March and announced a fresh Anonymous Mode in late June which will let users remove identifiers from their profiles.)

In other emailed responses, a Clue spokesperson provided links to May and July blogs about privacy compiled by Clues co-CEOs while a Sprout spokesperson said Mozilla incorrectly stated the app doesn’t have a ONLINE PRIVACY POLICY and that Apple and Google require all apps to get a online privacy policy.

Our Sprout Pregnancy app is definitely privacy-focused and is among the only pregnancy apps in the marketplace that will not require a merchant account to utilize the app (no username or password), the Sprout spokesperson wrote. And the app data is supported to the users personal iCloud or Google Drive account.

In accordance with Mozilla, others such as for example Period Tracker dont give advertisers usage of period info or other data that users put straight into the app, but nonetheless share data such as for example unique advertising IDs. Mozilla also highlights that Glow Nurture & Glow Babys info in the Google Play store claims the business doesnt share data with third parties, however the actual online privacy policy says it shares data with several third-party advertisers. With Wachanga, a pregnancy tracker, the companys website says it works together with third-party advertising companies, which might use general information regarding your visits to the web site, Wachanga Apps and Services along with other websites to be able to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest for you.

Regarding Maya, the time tracker claims it wont share identifiable information but does share anonymized information with advertisers. But Mozilla also noted a Privacy International report in 2019 that found Maya was sharing sensitive info with Facebook including mood and sex. Other apps ad capabilities seem more limited. For instance, with Philips Digital-owned Pregnancy+ app, Mozilla pointed out that the app encourages visitors to pick the Gold version for customized features including personalized advertising.

Mozilla isnt the initial organization to examine pregnancy and period app privacy policies. Last month, the Organisation for the Overview of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA)an unbiased organization in the U.K. that reviews healthcare apps for government agenciesfound that 84% of the 25 trackers and 24 app developers it reviewed shared data with third parties. While 68% shared data for marketing purposes such as for example contact lists, just 40% did so for research or even to enhance the app.

Alessandro Acquisti, professor of it and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, described Mozillas findings as an ideal exemplory case of how pervasive yet insidious the expenses of [losing] privacy could be. Thats because private information and the worthiness of data changes according to the context.

Losing ones privacy therefore may mean less than being served online ads you discover intrusive, or just as much as losing your reproductive rights, Acquisti said via email. Actually, the expenses of losing privacy could be so diverse they are hard to anticipate until they eventually materialize.This helps it be difficult for most of us to totally realize the worthiness of privacy ex ante.

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