Here we go again. Another data sharing scandal at Facebook. Seriously?
A new research study showed that period tracking apps, including MIA Fem and Maya, have sent your personal information to Facebook. This not only includes when you’re on your period, but the type of contraception you use, how often you are having sex, and any PMS symptoms like mood swings.
When does the invasion of privacy stop?
“The data sharing with Facebook happens via Facebook’s Software Development Kit (SDK), which 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.”
Great. So they know about your period because – you guessed it –advertising.
“Advertisers are often interested in people’s moods because it helps them strategically target ads to them at times they might be more likely to buy. And women who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant are likely to change their shopping habits.”
When BuzzFeed News broke the story, the owner of the Maya app emailed a warning to BF, fighting back:
“As BuzzFeed has not been the intended recipient of the email, it should have never been shared with BuzzFeed and you as its representative,” the email said. “Considering that the unauthorized disclosure has already happened, we hereby urge you to erase all the material erroneously obtained without prevarication and delays. We shall be waiting on your confirmation of the erasure.”
“All data accessed by Maya are also essential to the proper functioning of the product. Predicting information pertaining to menstrual cycles is complex and dependent on thousands of variables,” the email added. “Location information, the significance of which is highlighted in the report, helps us triangulate regional variations in cycle lengths and thus help improve accuracy of our prediction over time.”
Right…as if a news agency that received info on a story ‘erroneously’ is required to delete the info because of its ‘erroneous’ origins. NOT.
I mean, maybe they don’t share all your info, as they suggest, but there is residual proof that what their app collects can trigger certain ads even without specific information. Per Buzzfeed:
“MIA Fem asks users about all kinds of habits ranging from smoking to coffee consumption and tampon use. This data isn’t immediately shared with Facebook, Privacy International’s analysis found, but it enables MIA Fem to suggest articles to app users. Those articles — which are tailored to a user’s selected interests — are shared with Facebook. It also shared “reminders” within the app to take birth control medication with Facebook.”
Really what this is telling us is to read the terms of service before downloading an app. As consumers, we need to understand what information these companies are collecting. Sure, it might seem like a waste of time to read pages of legalese, but it just might save you the headache of your privacy being invaded.
Or maybe our government could step up and regulate an industry that is clearly flouting the reasonable standards of privacy that we’ve lived with in the law for generations? Or not. Whatever.