Period tracking apps to be reviewed over 'distressing' data concerns

New figures show more than half of women have concerns over data security.

Period trackers to be reviewed by Information Commissioner’s Office following ‘distressing’ data concerns Getty Images

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is set to review period and fertility tracking apps over data security concerns.

The ICO have said the review will work to “identify whether there is the potential for harm and negative impact on users as a result”.

This comes after a new poll from the ICO has found that more than half of women are concerned over their data security after using the apps.

The IOC website stated: “A poll commissioned by the regulator revealed women said transparency over how their data was used (59%) and how secure it was (57%) were bigger concerns than cost (55%) and ease of use (55%) when it came to choosing an app.”

Additionally, the poll found that women who used the app reported noticing an increase in baby or fertility-related adverts since signing up to the apps.

The ICO website reported that 17% of women who responded to the poll said receiving the adverts was “distressing”. Following the poll, the ICO is “urging” users to come forward and share their experiences through a survey.

ICO will also be “commissioning focus groups and user testing, and working with key stakeholders, where the national data guardian, Dr Nicola Byrne, and women’s health groups, including Wellbeing of Women, have offered their support”.

Emily Keaney, deputy commissioner of regulatory policy at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “These statistics suggest data security is a significant concern for women when it comes to choosing an app to track their periods or plan or prevent pregnancy. That’s not surprising, given the incredibly sensitive and personal information involved.

“We want to make sure women can use these services with confidence, so we’re calling for people to share their experiences. This will help us understand whether there are areas that need improvement – from how easy it is to navigate privacy policies to whether people have experienced upsetting and unexpected targeted advertising.

“We also know some users feel these apps bring many benefits and we’d like to hear about these too.

“As with all health apps, we would expect organisations to safeguard their users’ privacy and have transparent policies in place. This review is intended to establish both the good and bad of how the apps are working currently.

“Once we have more information, we will explore next steps, but we will not hesitate to take regulatory action to protect the public if necessary.”

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