In a new op-ed for Protego Press, our CEO and co-founder, Sarah Hunt, along with Meghan Bishop, fellow for innovation and technology, shine a light on one of the unfortunate dark sides of technology.
Apple recently enhanced their health app for women with a new feature called Cycle, where women can record their menstrual cycles, symptoms, and the app will use the entered data to help predict future cycles, the probability of conceiving, as well as potential symptoms.
While this app is convenient for women, there is a real potential that the data within the app may be used against them. According to Hunt and Bishop:
If a woman is raped and presses charges against her attacker, the information on the fertility tracking app combined with location and other data collected by the phone could be used as evidence in the criminal proceeding. Say the victim didn’t record her rape in the app, accidentally recorded it on the wrong day, recorded her rape as sexual intercourse rather than noting it as rape, or didn’t accurately report the date, time, or location of the rape? This could be used against her credibility.
Hunt and Bishop point out that what makes this a possible reality is that technology and app tracking have been used to break cold cases and put people behind bars in the past. The problem may arise if attorneys use this data in the health app to destroy a victim’s credibility, or a disgruntled former partner uses the app data in states with “heartbeat laws” to prosecute the woman that leave them.
Several states passed heartbeat bills and abortion bans in 2019. Three states criminalized doctors performing abortions, leading some to worry that pregnant women themselves may one day be exposed the criminal liability for abortion in the United States. In cases where the government prosecutes a woman’s physician, her privacy may be violated if the fertility app data — including sensitive details about her sexual activity — is subpoenaed. Apple has pledged that the data collected by the app will be encrypted and they will not sell it to third-parties, but this pledge protecting a woman’s privacy does not extend to the courtroom.
Mobile and wearable tech has changed the world, and fertility apps are just one of the many ways technology has been able to make people’s life easier. Hunt and Bishop conclude that “until women have legal protections in the courtroom from the abuses of government and corporate data surveillance, they should consider opting-out of fertility applications or at least using a fertility app that does not require the creation of an account with personal identifying information.”
Read the full article here: A vicious cycle: Yes, your fertility and cycle tracking apps can be weaponized against you in court