Apps and organizations tracking users’ information without their knowledge has become a new normal. The user’s digital privacy is under serious threat, and the corporate mafia is rolling out the most private data into the market.
Sexual privacy is probably the most private thing for an individual. Now even that looks hard-to-maintain, too.
Recently, a U.K.-based non-profit organization, Privacy International, unearthed five menstruation apps that were transferring the most confidential data of women to third-parties, including Facebook.
PI revealed that menstruation apps collect private information such as how women control birth, what medicines they use, and how difficult it is for women to obtain orgasm.
After finding out five apps that were tracking users’ data, the privacy charity approached those menstruation apps. Out of the five apps PI surveyed, only two apps gave a positive response. While among the remaining three, one app didn’t provide any information, one barred PI from publishing the data, and one app never answered.
Below are the five menstruation apps involved in this act:
- Clue by BioWink,
- Flo by Flo Health, Inc.,
- Maya by Plackal Tech,
- MIA by Femhealth Technologies Ltd., and
- Oky by UNICEF.
What’s happening is disturbing!
Recently, Privacy International published its report uncovering the illegal activities of menstruation apps. These firms held the most intimate data, including information about the user’s sexual life.
The growing use of menstruation apps has increased in the past few years. Women record their orgasm cycle to get themselves pregnant healthily. The apps are taking advantage of the user’s vulnerability.
The data collected by menstruation apps is chilling, said PI researcher Eva Blum-Dumontet. While legal experts described this act as “very disturbing.”
The legal director of data rights agency AWO, Ravi Naik, commented that the report’s data is concerning.
What’s the defense of these apps?
The companies are sharing user’s private data with Facebook and other networks. And that’s the most worrying thing. They are putting user’s privacy at stake for achieving their financial objective.
The research investigation revealed that Flo, a popular pregnancy and period tracker app, keeps users’ data in plain text. Not only that, but they also share it with outside companies.
Flo replied that they share data with outside firms to improve their working. Flo’s representative said that they never sell user data or share any sensitive information with third parties for advertising. The only person is to utilize user information to them with better service.
As per the report from Privacy International, Clue, another app similar to Flo, can access user’s birthdays and other sensitive data. Moreover, each time a user opens the application, the data is gathered and connected to a device ID and location. Just like Flo, Clue also shares data with other companies.
Clue too denied this allegation and said that they never sold any data. However, they store user data and keep it safe and secure, said Clue’s spokesperson. User’s information helps Clue in research work with universities. The companies spokesperson further said all the data gets encrypted before they work together with any organization.
Concerning data collection, these organizations have to be extremely careful and comply with data protection law—ensuring transparency.
The significance of menstruation apps is immense. Especially during the COVID-19 era, it is a convenient service to utilize. Rather than tracking user data and sharing it with others, these apps should provide an empowering experience.
User’s privacy is at stake
In today’s corporate world, data collection has become routine. Big giants like Facebook and Google have been found guilty of collecting data without user’s consent.
The exploitation of consumers through online ads has increased privacy risk. According to a report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC), the increasing threat of data collection by the Online Advertising Industry is alarming.
The report exposed ten apps available on Google Play Store that track excessive user data. The NCC reported that private data is piled up systematically and then shared with various third-party firms. The irony is, users, on the other hand, do not know anything about that at all.
Where the world is evolving with technological advancement, digital privacy is becoming more vulnerable. Indeed, data tracking has created a huge surveillance industry.
Today, data gets used for advertising purposes, and intelligence agencies also have access to it all the time. They can use and exploit any user whenever they want.
The legal authorities need to take quick and decisive action. This act is against the law and human rights, at least that’s what we at PrivacySavvy believe. Also, users should do their best to at least limit web tracking. The NCC report revealed another shocking point that profiling practices could result in exploitation, manipulation, and user discrimination.