Technology has been a godsend for a lot of people. It allows us to stay connected, it puts endless amounts of information at our fingertips, and if we didn't have technology, how could we enjoy all the amazing memes and GIFs?! But no good deed goes unpunished, right? As we've seen recently with the Facebook data breaches, all of the information we put out there isn't private. And some companies pay top dollar for our data. It's sort of the price we pay as consumers, to use the apps and social networks we've become dependent on. But there's a line that shouldn't be crossed, and there's information that we share that really shouldn't be mined or sold.
Lots of women use pregnancy and fertility apps in their journeys to conceive, and they can be super helpful. But private health information should be just that: private. One pregnancy app, Ovia, is apparently selling user data to companies that include the employers of the users. That seems to cross a major line, and some users are understandably upset.
In a new report, The Washington Post alleges that Ovia Health, the parent company behind several fertility, pregnancy, and parenting apps, is selling user data to their employers. They spoke with a 39-year-old event planner in Los Angeles, who used the app to track her pregnancy (including daily activities like sex drive).
The woman works for Activision Blizzard, a video game company. And Activision was following along on her pregnancy journey every step of the way. Turns out, Ovia Health offers a program to employers that allows them to access a special version of the app as part of their employee benefits. But that program also allows the company to access the aggregated, anonymous data submitted by employees.
The idea behind offering that special version of the app (which employers pay for) is that employers can use the data to help keep skilled women and provide more specialized benefits to their employees. But experts worry about how else the data can be used. There's a chance the data could be used to increase or decrease employee benefits, or that intimate details could be used to make business decisions.
Sure, it's supposed to be used to benefit the employee, but it can also be used to benefit the companies bottom line. Not to mention, if can feel like a major breach of privacy, especially when it comes to difficult events like infertility or miscarriage. Ovia Health says the free versions do not share data with employers, but your data can be used for research, marketing, or sold to third parties.
It's always a good idea to read those Terms of Service carefully, so you know what you (and your data) are in for.