The Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion access last week, allowing several states to outlaw abortion. Twitter trended “delete your period-tracking apps NOW.” when the news surfaced.
After the SCOTUS ruling, I studied the privacy policies of popular menstrual cycle apps and found nothing promising. Some Democratic senators worry that prosecutors in anti-abortion states may subpoena app developers to identify users who have visited an abortion provider.
I can’t offer any private period-tracking applications, but you can still track your reproductive health digitally.
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Period-tracking apps should be deleted
Period trackers let you keep track of your cycle and fertile days. As everyone who has seen an obstetrician or gynaecologist knows, doctors also need this information.
Menstrual trackers can be dangerous in states with abortion laws because they keep user data. This information may be shared with law police seeking for abortion proof. A missed period could be evidence of a crime even if you haven’t had an abortion. This is our world. Seriously.
Health information security
Whether you can have children or not, you should control access to your personal data. Before using apps, read their privacy policies. This is doubly true for health information. HIPAA protects information you share with your doctor or other healthcare professional, but not app data. Data brokers can sell the information to anyone.
Even Planned Parenthood’s Spot On period-tracking software shares personal information with third-party affiliates and law enforcement. Spot On data may be shared with academics.
I warn readers not to give third-party apps private information. Health information you believed was secure today could be in a hacker’s hands tomorrow. Keep health data offline or encrypted.
Privately Tracking Your Period
These three techniques aren’t as simple as period-tracking apps; but, they’re more private.
1. iPhone Health app
Apple’s Health app includes a period tracker. Moreover, You can log sexual activities, period symptoms, and pregnancy test results.
If a user has a current version of watchOS and iOS with multi-factor authentication and a passcode, Apple can’t see their health and activity data.
Check your iPhone’s sharing options. If you’ve shared health data with someone, they can still see it until you disable sharing under Health. My husband received fertility warnings on his iPhone after I switched to offline tracking.
Apple will give law enforcement your data unless you use multi-factor authentication for your Apple ID.
Android lacks a privacy-focused Google Health app.
2. Keep a secret calendar
The calendar app on your smartphone or PC isn’t the most secure solution, but it’s easy to disguise the information. To set your cycle’s start and end dates, type an emoji or character on the calendar. You needn’t explain.
Secure your devices and digital calendar logins using multi-factor authentication if you utilise this approach. Computer and mobile device calendars sync, so someone with physical access to either might see your data.
Pen and paper calendars can also be used to track your period, but they leave physical evidence that law enforcement can access.
You can store a health spreadsheet on your device without the cloud. Therefore, It’s easy to construct a simple tracking spreadsheet or obtain a template online. Aliza Aufrichtig, a NYT graphics and multimedia editor, wrote this guide (Opens in a new window). You can integrate email and calendar, but I don’t encourage it because it creates a digital trace. Google Sheets maintains your data in the cloud, which isn’t ideal. Use Aufrichtig’s instructions to construct an offline spreadsheet in Excel.
Remember that law enforcement could use any data on your phone against you. Always use a passcode, fingerprint, or Face ID to lock your phone.
This week in security:
Ransomware Gang Offers $1M Bug Bounty. However, The highest prize is for whoever reveals LockBit’s leader.
Overturning Roe v. Wade spurs more privacy protections. Democratic senators fear prosecutors will seek data on abortion patients.
CISA: Hackers exploit unpatched VMware Log4Shell servers. Six months! Servers need updating.
Blockchain provider negotiating with $100 million hacker. Blockchain supplier Harmony has also called in the FBI and cybersecurity organisations to examine the incident.