Privacy International, an advocacy group based in London, revealed that some menstrual tracking apps are sending their users’ private health information to Facebook and other third-party services. These data would include sexual encounters, monthly cycles and the use of contraception.
Buzzfeed obtained the research exclusively from the said group. In the report, it stated that Maya and MIA Fem are just two of the apps that sent sensitive data through Facebook’s SDK.
The SDK of the said social media giant allows app developers in incorporating features and gather user data so that Facebook could present targeted ads. When you add your personal data into an app, the data may be sent by the kit to Facebook.
According to the report:
“Out of the 36 apps we tested, we found that 61% automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app. This happens whether the user has a Facebook account or not, and whether they are logged into Facebook or not. We also found that some of those apps routinely send Facebook incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive personal data. Again, it didn’t matter if people were logged out of Facebook or didn’t have an account.”
Maya’s parent company Plackal Tech told Buzzfeed that the SDK allows the company to earn revenue by presenting ads that users can opt-out of if the user subscribes to the app’s premium subscription.
Furthermore, Maya accessed the data to predict the user’s menstrual cycles. The information of the user’s location is vital to allow the app in triangulating regional variations in cycle lengths. As a result, it improves the accuracy of prediction.
The app also suggests articles to users after they entered their daily habits.
Facebook stated that it communicated with those apps highlighted by the Privacy International to discuss the possible violations of the social media giant’s terms of service.
The social media said that it has systems that detect and delete some sensitive data, like passwords, SS numbers, and other personal data. It continues to look for many ways to improve its system to filter out other types of sensitive data.
These period tracking apps collect data about the users’ mood, sexual life and more. And this data is gathered so that the apps can tell you what day of the month you are fertile or when is your next period. Some of this data includes personal details that you are not likely to share with others. This sharing of user data related to sexual health is a serious concern for user privacy and the alarming report by ‘Privacy Internation’ highlights the importance of user awareness about the apps they use.
Apart from Maya and MIA, other menstrual tracking apps that are sharing your data to Facebook would include My Period Tracker, Ovulation Calculator, Period Tracker, and Mi Calendario. To get a full list of those period tracking apps, please visit the Privacy International’s report.
To prevent these apps from sending your data to Facebook and other companies, consider resetting your ad ID regularly. You should also opt-out of ad personalization.
Then, make sure that you review the permissions you gave to different apps. In this way, you are limiting them to necessary data for how you want to use the app.