All that information we record into these kinds of apps is exceptionally sensitive, and we expect it to stay between us and our phones.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case. And that’s not ok.
London-based advocacy group Privacy International has revealed that some period tracker apps share the private health information you've entered, including monthly period cycles and sexual rendezvous, with third-party services. Facebook included.
Privacy International’s report has called out two apps in particular for sharing information via Facebook's Software Development Kit (SDK): Maya and MIA Fem, which have collectively been downloaded over seven million times worldwide!
According to Buzzfeed, who was given exclusive access to Privacy International’s report, Maya shares certain user data with Facebook before a user can even agree to its privacy policies. It also shares data that users enter on their mood swings, which advertisers, "are often interested in...because it helps them strategically target ads...at times they might be more likely to buy. And women who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant are likely to change their shopping habits".
The good news is that following this whistleblowing expedition, Facebook is reportedly looking into possible violations of its terms of service, including sending prohibited types of sensitive information.
“We have systems in place to detect and delete certain types of data such as Social Security Numbers, passwords, and other personal data, such as email or phone number,” a Facebook spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “We have begun looking at ways to improve our system and products to detect and filter out more types of potentially sensitive data.”
And Maya by Plackal Tech are also looking into the issue, telling Privacy International:
“We understand your concern that in addition to providing the analytics SDK, Facebook is also a social network and an ad network. We have hence removed both the Facebook core SDK and Analytics SDK from Maya. Version 184.108.40.206 with these changes is live on the Google Play Store and will be submitted for review to the Apple App Store by this weekend.”
Thankfully, not all period tracker apps are bad. Privacy International did find some period tracker apps that *don’t* share user information with Facebook. These included: Period Tracker by Leap Fitness Group; Period Tracker Flo by Flo Health, Inc.; Period Tracker by Simple Design Ltd.; Period Tracker by GP International LLC; and Clue Period Tracker by Biowink.