- Date : 25/10/2019
- Read: 3 mins
Menstruation tracker apps have shared private, sensitive data belonging to millions of women with Facebook. This information will be used for targeted advertising.
Social media has become ubiquitous in our lives. Everything that people do is being posted online. Taking a flight? Check-in on Facebook. Taking a vacation? Plaster photos all over Instagram. While all this is voluntarily shared, there should be some information that must be kept private. This would include the menstrual cycle data belonging to millions of women!
Unfortunately, menstruation tracker apps have shared this private, sensitive data belonging to millions of women with Facebook.
A report titled, ‘No Body's Business But Mine: How Menstruation Apps Are Sharing Your Data’, revealed that out of the 36 apps studied, 61% of them immediately transfer data to Facebook as soon as the user opens the app. This happens irrespective of whether the user has a Facebook account or is logged into Facebook or not. Scary, isn’t it? Well, it gets worse.
Some of the apps have shared the most sensitive information in an incredibly detailed form. Two such apps found in the study by Privacy International are India-based Maya and Cyprus-based MIA. If you are a user of these apps, in all probability, Facebook knows about your ovulation cycle, and when you had sex last. These two apps are just a drop in the ocean. There are many more doing just the same – sharing private data with third parties.
Why is Facebook interested in this information?
Facebook’s intelligent platform leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to cull data and get actionable insights. This information is then used to bombard users with targeted advertising. As users are unlikely to share private information such as health, sex life, mood, etc., openly, these platforms that are supposed to help track your periods are used to harvest sensitive data. With this information, Facebook knows when a user is vulnerable, happy or anxious and then uses it to target them with strategic, personalised advertising.
How can you keep your information private?
Privacy laws are not as stringent in India as they are in Europe with the recent GDPR. Unlike the EU, India does not have a data protection law that can safeguard individuals. The fundamental right to privacy is not granted in the Indian Constitution yet. However, the conversation around it has started and sparked hope that citizens’ personal interests will be protected by a separate codified law such as GDPR. Till then, a lot of the onus is on the end-users to keep their data private.
Check out some of the laws that changed the course for Indian women, to understand how you can protect your rights.