Hidey-ho, fellow uterus owners. This is a message for everyone with a uterine lining that actively sheds every month. Please stop using apps to track your period. I know, I know. It’s all so convenient — especially for those folks just starting out on this “magical” journey (snort). Or those with irregular periods. But just like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, your internet browser, your cell phone, and basically everything else in your life that has an electrical current and connects to the internet, period tracking apps are collecting your data.
With all of those other apps, most of the data collection is just going toward showing you advertising that matches your interests and location. No brand wants to waste money serving ads about the new burger available in South Dakota restaurants to a vegetarian living in Pennsylvania. What do you think they’re doing with the data collected about your menstrual cycle or your pregnancy? Hmmmmm. “Reproductive Surveillance” is a term we should all familiarize ourselves with in this super exciting inevitably post-Roe world we’re about to be living in. A December 2021 article from Rewire News Group quoted a University of Baltimore Law Review article (emphasis mine):
A wide variety of digital forensic technology and other forms of technology broaden state surveillance power through online searches, geofencing, location tracking, purchasing history, and more. Combined, these data points could identify, for example, the profiles of pregnant people spending time at substance abuse centers, purchases at bars, or repeatedly taking a particular route across state lines.
Consumer Reports sounded the alarm about period trackers specifically back in 2020 in this article about the rise of “femtech.”
(Sidebar: Can we all agree to never use the term “femtech” again? Thanks.)
The main focus of the article is about being aware of what data you’re sharing, and to only use those apps that are transparent about what they’re doing with the data they collect. However, only two years later, we’re living in a different time and any data about your menstrual cycle and pregnancy can be used against you.
Staring down the barrel of abortion access becoming a state issue, and some states already offering bounties to turn in abortion seekers and providers, all of this data about your cycle is about to become very valuable information. The Adtech industry has been finessing the art of data collection for quite some time. It sounds like the masters of that universe are prepared to wade into the abortion rights fight. For the uninitiated, Adtech generally refers to all of the software and tools that agencies, brands, publishers, and web platforms use to target, deliver, and measure their digital advertising efforts. These are the folks who know where you are, what you’re buying, what you’re browsing but not buying, and what you’re chatting with your friends about on social media. They’re already planning to weaponize all of your period tracker data against you. Nandini Jammi (a prominent adtech watchdog formerly of Sleeping Giants) would like to introduce you to some of those people.
[Interrupts beautiful tropical vacation to share the following:]— Nandini Jammi is on vacation 🏖🍹🌴 (@nandoodles) May 3, 2022
A handful of men in adtech are planning to get rich off selling the data of any woman attempting to secure an abortion directly to law enforcement.
Here are faces of the men behind @SafeGraph.
1. @auren pic.twitter.com/vAM1fawvB4
These are dangerous hands to entrust with our most private data. Technology is going to continue to evolve side-by-side with the systematic removal of our rights, up until such a time we figure out how to stop them from removing our rights. Or collecting our data. Both? Both! Anyway. Delete those apps! Protect your privates’ privacy!