FemTech And Data Security: Is Your Data Safe?

From fertility trackers to breast pumps, these innovative products and services are empowering women around the world. However, with the rise of FemTech also comes the need to protect your personal data. In this article we'll provide tips to keep your information secure.

FemTech has been gaining popularity in the past few years, and it has provided women from all over the globe with ways to keep track of their bodily changes. We could say it’s the best thing since the introduction of disposable towels in 1888, but is it? There have been privacy concerns in recent years, but how worried do you need to be about the privacy of your data? Read on as we talk about the security of your personal information and the steps you can take to protect your privacy.

Is Your Information Protected?

With every passing day, millions of women upload intimate information about themselves onto period and health-tracking apps. These apps provide a convenient way of keeping track of your bodily changes in a less invasive and time-consuming way. Most of us assume that our data will be protected under laws like HIPAA in the United States or the Patient Data Act in Sweden, but this is not always the case.

Data protection laws mostly protect data if certain entities are in possession of it. A good example is that you can share medical information with your health practitioner and it will be protected under a health data protection law like HIPAA, but you can share the same information on a health tracking app, and it will not be under the same protection. For most apps, the consumer data is the product, and it can be sold for a profit without the consumer being none the wiser.

Health tracking apps can collect unimaginable amounts of data about you and this can include your location, your contact information, and more. The results of a study were published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study involved 23 popular health-tracking apps. All of these apps were found to be collecting each user’s personal health information, and only 70% of them had a privacy policy. As scary as this sounds, it doesn’t mean that you have to delete your health-tracking apps. Let’s look at some steps you can take to protect your data.

Restrict Any Unnecessary Permissions

Most apps, including health apps, will request permission to access a variety of information that is stored on your phone. This information can range from location to photos. Most of us will just grant access without thinking twice about it, but it is in your best interest to restrict unnecessary access to information on your phone. You can simply go to Settings and tap on ‘Privacy and Security,’ then, you can review the apps that have access to your information.

You can take it a step further and check if your app allows social sharing. If it does, your information might be shared with your friends, family, or other people you have connected with via your health tracking app. You can go to ‘Settings’ within the app and review the people who have access to your health information.

Make Use Of Encrypted Messaging

Message encryption essentially means that your message or data is scrambled, and the process can only be reversed if a key is made available. The key will only be available on your device and the device you are messaging. This will ensure that your information stays private and will not be tampered with before reaching the intended recipient.

You can also do some research on your health-tracking app and find out how secure your personal data is. For example, all the data you upload to your Flo App is transmitted via a secure cloud server, and all your information is never stored in one location.

Only Download Apps From Official App Stores

Downloading apps from unknown sources can potentially expose you to harmful activity that includes the collection of your data without your consent or knowledge. Downloading free apps from unknown sources might seem convenient at the time, but it is a potential risk to your privacy. Remember that if you are not buying the product, then you are the product. You should only download apps from trusted sources like the official App Store that comes pre-installed in your phone by the manufacturer. You can also use your Operating System App Store as an alternative. If you want to go a step further, you can look up the developer.

Be Familiar With The Privacy Policy Of The Apps You Are Using

Thoroughly reading the privacy policies of every health app you use will save you from just tapping “Agree & Accept” without having any idea what you agree to. Take your time to read through the privacy policy and any other updates that pop up along the way.

Companies can legally collect and sell your health data to a third party as long as they are transparent about what they are doing and include this in their privacy policy. This means that it’s up to you as the consumer to read the privacy policy and determine whether or not you are comfortable with each section. You should also be wary of using apps that have privacy policies that are too complex and are a nightmare to understand and those that do not mention third-party sharing at all.

Update Your Apps And Delete Those You No Longer Need

Outdated apps may not have any updated security features, and this will increase your chances of getting hacked. Hacking methods always evolve and get refined over time, and this means that security features have to keep up to keep your data safe. Updating your apps as new and improved versions come out will help boost data safety and limit your chances of getting hacked. Deleting apps you no longer use will also restrict access to your personal information.

Final Word

FemTech is one of the best things to happen to feminine health, and using apps can help us to understand our cycles and keep track of bodily changes. Like most things, there are risks to using apps to keep track of your health, but you can significantly lower those risks by following the steps we discussed above. I personally use a combination of these steps and more to ensure that I can reap the benefits of FemTech without putting my privacy at risk.