Millions of women use apps to track their menstrual cycles, recording and storing intimate data about their reproductive health. Since such data can reveal when menstruation stops and starts, ovulation and pregnancy, it could become evidence in states where abortion is criminalized.
A 2021 report from the International Digital Responsibility Council (IDAC) found that period trackers were sending unencrypted personal information or sharing data with third parties without fully disclosing it in their privacy policies, which no one reads either. This would be the case of the Flo menstruation app , with more than 100 million users, who reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after being investigated for having promised to keep the data of its users protected and then share them with Facebook and Google. Or Ovia , which shared some users’ aggregated family planning data with their employers. EITHERNatural Cycles , the first app cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for birth control, which collects “sensitive information” linked to the user’s identity.
Another example: Vice’s Motherboard blog , for the laughable amount of 160 dollars, bought from SafeGraph data that allowed identifying the origin of the people who visited, for a week, more than 600 Planned Parenthood clinics (clinics where abortions are performed) . ) and where they went next. The company SafeGraph has announced that it will not allow its clients to search for location data related to family planning centers, but nothing prevents them from being forced to provide it if requested by the prosecution or a judge.
Suddenly, US lawmakers have realized that the data economy is based precisely on trading in individuals’ data, selling it to the highest bidder, which could well be the Texas prosecutor’s office or a radical right-wing group. And as soon as data is collected, the temptation to request it appears. And the obligation to deliver it, too. How much better it would be if that fact had never existed except in the mind of every woman who does the math to know when it’s her turn to get sick .
California Democratic Congresswoman Sara Jacobs is trying to prevent this from happening and has introduced the My Body, My Data billthat would require companies to only collect and retain reproductive health information that is “strictly necessary” to provide their services, unless they obtain the explicit consent of a user, giving users the right to demand that their information be deleted or for companies to disclose how they are using the data.
Separately, a group of five Democratic senators led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has urged Apple and Google to ensure that third-party services in their app stores “do not employ data practices that threaten the well-being of anyone searching abortion services. For his part, the Democratic senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden, together with 40 Democratic congressmen, has sent a letter asking Googleto “stop unnecessarily collecting and retaining client location data” and preventing it from being used to identify people who have had abortions, risking prosecutors in more restrictive states getting warrants to prosecute, prosecute and incarcerate to women who have had abortions within or outside their state. Good luck with that, Ron.
And so, suddenly, a legislative change means that knowing if a woman has stopped menstruating, has left her state, and has returned to menstruate after a few weeks can be evidence of the commission of a criminal offence. We live immersed in a galvanized Adamism. We take for granted that the welfare state, paid vacations, fundamental rights, the rule of law have always been there and that, whatever we do, they are indestructible. That we deserve them for our pretty face, because we are worth it, because it is the least that humanity owes us. Rights are made of titanium and we can rub them as much as we want. We don’t want to know or we don’t know, because nothing that has preceded us exists or matters, that are a compaction of fine sand product of the constant work and the bloody struggle of the generations that preceded us. So weak are they that a couple of skillful swipes dissolves them and their microscopic pieces are lost in the wind like the tears of a replicant.