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American women are deleting period-tracking apps following Roe vs Wade verdict

American women are deleting period-tracking apps following Roe vs Wade verdict

After the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs Wade judgment, calls to delete period-tracking apps have grown louder.

Abortion rights supporters react to the overturning of Roe v Wade outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, US, June 24 (Photo: Reuters) Abortion rights supporters react to the overturning of Roe v Wade outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, US, June 24 (Photo: Reuters)

The US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs Wade Judgment on Friday taking away abortion rights from American women that had been there since 1973. The court’s decision triggered angry reactions globally and brought the focus back on the pro-choice vs pro-life debate.

And the decision has also triggered another fear. Calls to delete period-tracking apps have grown louder since the judgment with people being worried that the information could be accessed by the government to persecute the users.

There’s always been a legitimate worry that data related to period symptoms, pregnancy plans, ovulation cycles, etc, that are usually tracked on these apps, is passed on to Big Tech companies for targeted advertisements. Now, in the post-Roe vs Wade world, people are worried that these period-tracking apps could be forced to hand over data to law enforcement authorities. And if the information was to indicate that a user has had an abortion, the companies and the user could be summoned.

While tech-policy researchers are of the opinion that the odds of the government demanding data from these period trackers are low, there is no ruling out the possibility. Eva Blum-Dumontet, a tech-policy researcher, told Business Insider that if users find these apps useful, they might continue to use them and that it is “unlikely” that this data will be shared with government agencies, but it is not impossible. However, Blum-Dumontet, who has published a paper on the privacy policies and practices of period-trackers, said that users should not live with a false sense of security.

Abortion rights activists and privacy advocates have been encouraging people to delete the period-tracking apps and some of these apps have also spoken up.

“We are, and always have been, committed to protecting your private health data. Your tracked experience should empower you, whatever your private health decisions. We will never enable anyone to use it against you. #RoevWade,” Clue, one of the period-tracking apps, tweeted on Sunday.

The app also said in a statement that the European data privacy laws would protect its US users since their “data cannot simply be subpoenaed from the U.S.” Clue is based in Berlin (Germany).

Flo, another one of these apps, tweeted on June 24 that it would not sell users’ personal data and also announced a new “Anonymous Mode” that will remove the user’s personal identity from the Flo account so that they cannot be identified.

Flo, though, has been hit by a Federal Trade Commission complaint in the past that alleged the app has shared users’ information with companies like Google and Facebook.

While apps like Flo might be scrambling now to make their apps bulletproof, there is a bigger issue that both these apps and tech companies must figure out - either stop collecting data or protect it better.

Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Eva Galperin, tweeted that users’ contact lists, friend lists, messages, location, searches, health information, and metadata needs to be protected by all tech companies, not just these period trackers.

“If tech companies don’t want to have their data turned into a dragnet against people seeking abortions and people providing abortion support, they need to stop collecting that data now. Don’t have it for sale. Don’t have it when a subpoena arrives,” Galperin tweeted.

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