Photo: Elena Lacey
The information women share with health apps may not be as protected as they think.
An estimated 50 million women around the world use apps to track their monthly cycles and fertility, entering very sensitive and personal information.
“It could be whether you are trying to get pregnant, whether you have fertility issues, do you have any health issues,” explained Donna Rosato, senior editor at Consumer Reports. “Whether you have unprotected sex.”
Consumer Reports’ Digital Lab examined five popular tracking apps: Flo, Clue, Ovia, BabyCenter and My Calendar.
“Some of the apps are more transparent than others about what information they collect and what happens to that information,” Rosato said. “But none of them could promise that the information that you shared isn’t getting out into the wider world.”
Consumer Reports found no major security flaws in the apps, but did find some minor issues regarding security or privacy and alerted the companies.
“Some moved very quickly to make changes to the points that we raised,” Rosato said. “Others were commenting about how important privacy is to them.”
One way you can protect how much information you share is to turn off location sharing to the app as well as access to your camera.
Also use a password manager to encrypt your password, limit ad tracking in your phone settings and accept app updates that can fix bugs.
And always remember, the information you share is not covered by any federal health laws.
“Many of the women I spoke with who do use the apps thought the information was protected because in other areas of their life it is. But it is not with period tracker apps,” Rosato said.
It’s an important reminder that applies to many health apps we use daily.
To further protect yourself, you can also login anonymously to apps and not register your email address.