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ICO to review Period tracker apps over data concerns

According to recent reports from BBC, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is currently conducting a review of period and fertility tracking applications due to concerns regarding data security.

These apps operate by charting menstrual cycles based on user-provided information and claim to assist with various menstrual health issues, including determining the optimal time for conception.

The ICO’s review stems from survey evidence revealing that many users are apprehensive about the security of the data they share and the transparency of app developers.

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The regulatory body commissioned a poll that found a third of women had utilized these apps to monitor their menstrual cycles or fertility.

Of these users, 59% expressed reservations about data transparency, while 57% were concerned about the security of their submitted information.

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Additionally, the research indicated that more than half of app users believed they had observed an increase in advertisements related to babies or fertility after signing up.

While some respondents viewed this marketing positively, 17% described these adverts as distressing.

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The deputy commissioner of regulatory policy at the ICO, Emily Keaney emphasized the understandable nature of these concerns, given the highly sensitive and personal information involved.

Ms Keaney stressed the expectation that health apps would prioritize user privacy and implement transparent policies. She stated that the review’s goal is to assess both the positive and negative aspects of the current functioning of these apps.

The ICO’s investigation will encompass several aspects, including whether app privacy policies are overly complex or confusing, leaving users uncertain about the data they’ve consented to share.

The review will also evaluate whether these apps request or store excessive amounts of data and whether users are exposed to distressing targeted advertisements without consent.

The ICO is encouraging app users to share their experiences through a survey on its website and is also conducting focus groups and user testing.

Women’s health groups have offered their support in this endeavour.

Diana Mutheu
Diana Mutheu
Diana Mutheu is a Tech enthusiast, happy to delve deeper into the African tech space covering Social Media, AI, Startups, Telcos, Cryptocurrency, Big Data, Women in Tech and all matters Tech.

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