TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Many women use reproductive health apps to plan or prevent pregnancy. Now, a new study finds the most popular apps have weak privacy protections.
Women enter the most sensitive data into these apps: information about their cycle, pregnancy, and doctor appointments.
The concern is these apps don’t just put your privacy at risk but also possibly your freedom.
“I hope that our information isn’t weaponized against us,” Serena White said.
Like millions of other women, White downloaded a period and pregnancy tracking app.
She said the app made life easier but she deleted it soon after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.
“You were concerned about law enforcement having your personal information?” Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked.
“I was concerned, and I was concerned enough to just go ahead and say, you know, this app isn’t necessary for me,” White said.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is a professor and constitutional law expert at Stetson Law.
“So the problem with a period tracking is that it could be used as evidence against a woman,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
Many are reacting to a new study by the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit advocating for privacy rights.
Researchers said they looked at 25 popular apps and devices.
They found most have vague privacy policies.
Additionally, they don’t spell out what data could be shared with law enforcement.
The non-profit said that means police could use the data to prosecute pregnant people.
“How likely would it be for this data to be used in a case against a women seeking an abortion?” asked Saeidi.
“This is a brave new world,” Torres-Spelliscy said. “A lot of these apps are relatively recent … the law has not really caught up with the way that people live.”
The professor said when you provide information to a third party, that makes it very easy for law enforcement to get it.
“Because they can subpoena if they have probable cause to think that there’s a crime, they can go after that third party, and the third party doesn’t have the same 5th amendment rights to object,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
“At this point it’s a little premature to say will law enforcement use these apps in the most pernicious ways that they could but I am certainly worried about it.”
Some of the apps have questioned how this study was conducted.
The professor said she’s not surprised that pregnancy tracking apps have weak privacy protections because that’s the case with most apps.