Period Tracking Apps Raise Privacy Concerns in Post-Roe Fallout – NBC Chicago

Many women use apps on their phones to track their menstrual cycle for a variety of reasons.

“We’re seeing patients just trying to understand when their period might come, trying to conceive, or trying not to get pregnant,” says Dr. Jessica Walter, infertility specialist at Northwestern Medicine.

Walter sees it every day.

“At almost every patient consultation, when I ask someone when the first day of your last period was, everyone pulls out their phone,” Walter said.

With abortion illegal in several states and more states expected to ban or restrict the procedure soon, some are concerned about the digital trail these apps may leave behind.

“There is concern that with the criminalization of abortion, this information could be requested by officials by researchers and that information could then potentially be used against the patient,” Walter said.

Cooper Quintin is a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending digital privacy, freedom of expression and innovation. He says the care goes beyond menstrual trackers.

“Law enforcement officers look at text messages, emails and Facebook messages and things like that,” Quintin said. “We think those are actually the biggest concern right now.”

In order not to leave any traces of messages about abortion, Quintin recommends turning on disappearing messages in an encrypted app, such as Signal or WhatsApp.

When it comes to period tracking apps, Quintin advises women to pay attention to where the data is stored.

“I think it’s good to use one that stores the data locally on your phone,” Quintin said.

Instead of an app, a woman can use a spreadsheet that is saved directly to your phone or computer.

“The police cannot tell you to lock your phone. Only a judge can order you to unlock your phone,” Quintin said.

The safest tracker is perhaps the simplest, an old-fashioned paper calendar.

“I think the most important thing to empower yourself, especially during this time, is to trust that you educate yourself about the risks you are in, based on where you live,” Walter said.

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