Story at a glance
- Period tracking apps are publicizing their privacy policies after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
- That’s because certain digital data can be sold to the federal government without a court order.
- Apps like Flo, Clue and Natural Cycle have confirmed they do not sell users’ private data.
Digital apps that allow users to track their menstrual cycles are doubling down on privacy efforts as concerns over digital data being used against those who seek or perform abortions rises after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
Multiple period tracking apps issued statements following Friday’s consequential Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade — a nearly 50-year precedent that affirmed abortion access as a constitutional right.
That’s because many privacy advocates have raised alarms about how law enforcement or anti-abortion groups could seek out user data in order to enforce abortion bans.
Flo, a period tracker app that’s used by 200 million users worldwide, announced it was developing an anonymous mode which will allow users to access their information anonymously without providing their name or email address.
Flo also confirmed that it does not sell users’ personal data and that users can delete it at any time.
Clue, another period tracking app, made a similar statement, saying the app does not share users’ personal data. Clue is based in Germany and therefore must apply European privacy law which is considered the strictest in the world.
Clue also confirmed that no U.S. court or authority can override European law and that the app’s user data cannot be subpoenaed from the U.S.
Another menstrual tracking app, Natural Cycles, told the Wall Street Journal it was also attempting to build an anonymous user experience, so not even internal company leadership at Natural Cycles could identify users.
Data brokers and other firms without a direct relationship to consumers are legally allowed to sell Americans’ user data to the government without a court order. There also is no overarching federal privacy law that governs the collection and sale of user data among private-sector companies.
A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that more regulations are needed for managing how companies collect, use and sell online personal information — often done without the consumer’s knowledge or consent.
Congress has tried to intervene by introducing the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act. It would close the legal loophole that allows data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without any court oversight.
“Doing business online doesn’t amount to giving the government permission to track your every movement or rifle through the most personal details of your life,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), sponsor of the act, in a statement.
“There’s no reason information scavenged by data brokers should be treated differently than the same data held by your phone company or email provider. This bill closes that legal loophole and ensures that the government can’t use its credit card to end-run the Fourth Amendment.”
The Fourth Amendment affirms the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant.