How period-tracking apps won’t protect privacy in a post-Roe v. wade


Now that the Supreme Court has officially overruled deer, you’re probably worried about, among other things, what you need to do to protect your privacy online. Following the SCOTUS judgment, Twitter exploded with calls to scrap your period-tracking apps and lock down your reproductive health data, but with so much uncertainty about how that data might be used in the post-deer time, it is difficult to know exactly how to proceed.

The thing is that there is many things we already know: Facebook is collect sensitive personal information and make it available to anti-abortion organizations; abortion resources are censored on social networks; Google is quickly becoming a mainstay of American police and investigation. Nor is the impact of these forces hypothetical – we have historical examples to cite. From 2017, Mississippi police charge Latice Fisher of second-degree murder and used his phone data and online searches for abortion pills to support the charges. (After three years, the charges against Fisher were dropped and Fisher maintains that she had a stillbirth). Last April, Lizelle Herrera was arrested in Texas after a nurse reported her for an alleged “voluntary abortion”. Herrera faced murder charges, but they were later dropped after public outcry.

At a time when the majority of Americans support access to abortion, it can feel like the country is taking a huge step backwards. But that’s not entirely true either. It’s not a step backit’s a step Deeper into uncharted territory where a person’s “fundamental right to privacy” is not limited to not matters, but their health decisions, internet usage, and even their location are constantly being collected, monitored, and sold. It’s an understatement, it’s… a lot!

But there are steps you can take to protect your digital footprint, especially when it comes to tracking your period and finding abortion and reproductive health resources. Here’s how.

Should I delete my period tracking app?

It’s unclear exactly how your period tracking data might be used, but because most femtech apps fall outside of HIPAA– the national standard on safeguarding medical records and protected health information – this could be requested by law enforcement seeking to gather evidence against abortion providers. So the only guaranteed way to keep your period history entirely private is to not use an app – it’s that simple. But before you jump into the scorched earth and delete all your accounts, let’s assess how your data is protected, stored, and accessed.

You must first determine where your data may end up downstream, whether that be data brokers, social media companies, or law enforcement agents. If you are unsure of your menstrual’s policy, read their privacy agreement and pay particular attention to the “use/disclosure” section to find out under what circumstances your data will be disclosed and who may have access to it. (If they don’t have a “use/disclosure” section, that’s probably a bad sign). data broker selling the data,” warns Bethany Corbin, femtech and cybersecurity lawyer at Nixon Gwilt Law.

After deer has been rolled back, several period-tracking apps have started touting their anonymous or “incognito mode” options, but sadly, even those aren’t as secure as they seem. “There are many ways to re-identify data after the fact, so ‘anonymous’ rarely means unidentifiable. Consumers should not put data into an app, even using anonymous functionality, unless they are confident that the data can be leaked or made public,” says Corbin.

Sam Dawson, cybersecurity expert and researcher at ProPrivacy, recommends abandoning period-tracking apps altogether. Once the data is available, “we can’t put the genie back in the bottle…Information about your reproductive health is extremely sensitive, and it’s not something that should be given away freely or monetized by others.” others,” says Dawson.

But if you are determined to use a menstrual app, a recent Sufshark Study found that apps like cycle tracking, WOMENand Spot on collect less data than apps like Eve, Flow, Ovia or Flo. And don’t forget that there’s always the good old analog option of tracking your period using a paper calendar.

How can I search for abortion clinics and information online safely?

If you need information about abortion clinics, send it by mail abortion pills, or general abortion-related resources, you should consider using a VPN for research. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a server that protects your internet activity and credentials by encrypting your data, even that of your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or when using a Wi-Fi network. -Fi public or shared. VPNs are easy to download and install on your computer. Dawson recommends Private Internet Access as a particularly reputable VPN.

Should I be worried about location tracking?

For those who must cross state lines to obtain an abortion, the answer is yes, you must take precautions regarding your location history. “Disable all location-based apps on your mobile and tablet devices. In some cases, it may even be best to leave your mobile devices and tablets at home to prevent geolocation tracking,” says Crobin. borders a state to get abortion pills, you’ll want to make sure you complete the abortion process (i.e. finish taking all the pills) while you’re in that state before you return to your home state.”

If you want to be extra, in addition make sure you don’t leave any paper trails, leave your phone at home and only use cash when traveling.

How about discussing an abortion online?

Be extremely careful who you tell about your pregnancy or abortion plans, both online and offline. “Right now, the biggest safety concern for people seeking abortion care is other people,” says Rebecca Wang, legal counsel at If/When/How, a reproductive rights and legal support organization. “I encourage people to look at where and how they might directly, and perhaps unnecessarily, disclose personal health information to others.”

If you need to chat with someone, consider using an encrypted messaging platform like Signal, which is open source, encrypted, and non-profit. WhatsApp may be “pretty good,” Dawson says, but “it is known that WhatsApp now shares metadata about users of its platform with Facebook.” Metadata includes who you’re talking to, when your message is sent, and the device you’re using, basically everything except the chat itself.

Do I need to know anything else?

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about the production and privacy of your data, and be careful with whom you share important personal information (the New York Times has a great guide to protecting your privacy). Which apps, browsers, and email services you use or not is up to you, but considering all the unknowns in this article.deer time, it’s a good idea to start thinking about developing safer online habits. In the meantime, if you have any legal questions about abortion, especially self-managed abortion, you can contact If/When/How via their Repro Legal Helpline.

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