When that time of the month rolls around, most women prefer to deal with the symptoms and nuisances that comes with having your period in private. The open, honest and public conversations surrounding women’s periods are far and few. But even if we aren't talking about it but we do turn to apps to help us track our menstruation cycles, ovulation and many women even use apps as a form of birth control. Well, a UK-based advocacy group has released a report revealing that some of those apps have been share their data with Facebook.
Privacy International laid out Facebook’s methodology on getting information from apps you use, even if you aren’t logged in or have a Facebook account. They say that, “any website that has integrated a Facebook ‘Like’ button or a tracking pixel automatically sends data to Facebook.” They took their studies one step furthered and monitored what data they get from period tracking apps and it’s pretty freaky.
According to P.I.’s partner organization Coding Rights, menstrual apps don’t just track your period but they also have you store information like your medical history or your sexual health and lifestyle details and, in turn, they tell you what days of the month you’re going to have your next period or when you’re most fertile. Typical information you wouldn’t really want to be shared with Facebook, or anyone else other than an intimate partner.
Their studies showed that popular apps that want you to share a whole lot of personal details, like Maya by Plackal Tech, which has around 5 million downloads on Google Play and MIA by Mobapp Development Limited, an app that has around 2 million users, were sharing extensive amounts of their user’s private information with third parties, a.k.a. Facebook, and more specifically, Facebook's Software Development Kit (SDK). Facebook’s SDK, “helps app developers incorporate particular features and collect user data so Facebook can show them targeted ads, among other functions. When a user puts personal information into an app, that information may also be sent by the SDK to Facebook.”
In their report, they found that Maya was informing Facebook as soon as you opened their app. They also share data such as what kind of contraceptive your using, what emotional state you're in, or just about any of your health data on their app. All this information, like your mood and your symptoms, can be used to strategically target what ads are served to you on Facebook’s platforms.
Facebook’s response to Buzzfeed after the report was released states that they, “had gotten in touch with the apps Privacy International identified to discuss possible violations of its terms of service, including sending prohibited types of sensitive information.”