Invasion of privacy

Family-planning apps that share data spark fears of ‘menstrual surveillance’

Pregnant women already face a number of obstacles in society and the workplace. But as companies and health insurers increasingly track data gathered from family-planning apps, activists are warning about the consequences of companies being able to predict whether their women employees are trying to get pregnant.

More and more women are using family-planning apps to track their ovulation cycles. But the data from such applications, experts say, is liable to being shared with companies and health insurers who might seek to penalize women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or who face the possibility of a high-risk pregnancy.

Video game company Activision Blizzard, for example, is offering women employees financial incentives to use family-planning apps from Ovia Health that gather information on women’s fertility, menstrual cycles, and the progress of their pregnancies. Employee data gathered by the app is automatically shared with Activision Blizzard — raising the possibility that the company could potentially use the information to discriminate against employees who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

This dystopian trend, known as “menstrual surveillance,” could have even more disturbing applications. As anti-abortion movements continue to sweep across the world and the U.S., feminist technology scholar Rachel Dubrofsky told the Guardian that family-planning applications might potentially be weaponized by governments to target women who seek to obtain abortions.

“Apps such as Ovia are particularly concerning for their potential to further restrict the rights of women to have control over their bodies, make women’s access to affordable healthcare increasingly precarious, and put women’s jobs at risk,” said Dubrofsky.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

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