Home News Period-Tracking Apps, Ranked by Data Privacy: Flo, Clue, Stardust, Period Calendar, Period...

Period-Tracking Apps, Ranked by Data Privacy: Flo, Clue, Stardust, Period Calendar, Period Tracker


Not only does this shift the burden of risk assessment onto individual users, but it also makes it difficult to assess the privacy and security of applications. To this end, we consulted with the assessment framework pioneered by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (MIND) and Digital Standards to derive four core questions to guide our research.

*Score (0) = App does not meet privacy requirements, (1) = App partially meets privacy requirements, (2) = App meets privacy requirements, (3) = App meets privacy requirements very well

**”Explicit Specification” is defined herein as a third-party company and its index of the data it receives.

Local and cloud storage

understand Where A company’s storage of your data is critical to assessing the privacy risks posed by the use of its products. Most popular mobile apps store user data in the cloud — multiple servers across multiple locations — which allows them to process large volumes of easily recovered information. It also means your data is more vulnerable to bad actors. That’s why organizations like Givens prefer apps that store information directly on the user’s device. You have more complete control if the app stores data directly on your phone. None of the apps reviewed above give users the option to store their data locally, but Drip, which is backed by Euki and the Mozilla Foundation, does.

third party sharing

If you’ve used Facebook to log into a website or app recently, you’re already familiar with some of the ways app developers share information with third parties. Knowing which third parties your company works with and the type of data passed to them is a useful way to assess your level of protection. For example, Period Tracker’s privacy policy admits to sharing a user’s device ID with ad networks, which is quite risky. It also expressed their willingness to sell or transfer user data as a result of a company merger or sale. Often, like Clue, apps that clearly list who they provide information to and why are more trustworthy.

It is also helpful to know whether data is often anonymized (de-identifying user information) before sharing with these third parties. However, this is not a panacea. Under certain conditions, the reduced data can still be returned to individual users. Machine learning makes this threat even more real, as the technology can speed up the suspicious “re-identification” process. Despite vowing not to share user data itself, Clue passes on anonymous data to certain third-party research groups. While Stardust promises to limit the information they share with third parties, their policy states that it can share information “to comply with or respond to law enforcement,” or to protect “the company’s security.” Ideally, apps are very selective about which third parties they’re willing to share information with — or they don’t share information with third parties at all.

data deletion

Every application should establish protocols that allow users to delete their personal data from the developer’s system at will.While many US apps include these protocols to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), users should be aware of the Privacy Policy Clearly Extend these wipe permissions to all users, regardless of location. Even so, it can be tricky, Givens said: “If you’re not a resident of a jurisdiction covered by the law, there’s no guarantee they’ll comply with it.”

Even applications that invite data deletion requests may not always execute them in a timely or complete manner. Flo’s security practices put it under FTC scrutiny in 2021, and the company specifically states in its privacy policy that after deleting its app, they “retain your personal data for 3 years in case you decide to reactivate it” .” Period Tracker admitted to retaining users’ mobile device IDs “for up to 24 months” after receiving a request. The safest apps should keep your data for 30 days or less, and preferably submit deletion requests to third parties on your behalf like Clue does.

location tracking

Greater privacy concerns arise if applications explicitly store location data (as Period Calendar and Period Tracker do). While three of the five apps analyzed here do not appear to save location data explicitly, each saves the user’s IP address, which can be used to determine someone’s approximate location. For example, Flo explicitly shares IP addresses with third parties such as AppsFlyer.

Stardust’s approach increases security by separating users’ IP addresses from their health data. But critics say their approach falls short of true end-to-end encryption. Regardless, when IP addresses are combined with external data such as a user’s search history or even other publicly available information about a user, they can easily reveal the person’s identity and their activities. The CDT and other privacy advocates have warned that users’ text messages and search histories have been used against them in legal proceedings involving their reproductive health, and that the practice could expand.

bottom line

At the end of the day, period tracking apps like Clue present a lower risk to users than apps like Flo, Stardust, Period Calendar, and Period Tracker. However, as Consumer Reports confirmed, all five apps were chosen for their super popularity compared to safer options like Euki and Drip.As long as the user can analyze all Users can make informed decisions about which companies to align with, based on standards set by The Digital Standard, the Mhealth Index, and elsewhere, but assessing the risks of using a particular app is an imperfect science. Besides being extremely time-consuming and often confusing, it’s far from a suitable replacement for the lack of broad legal privacy protections that apply to all Americans.

According to privacy experts like Givens, period tracking apps represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital privacy and security.roe. CDT recommends that people assess their risk level to determine if using a period tracking app is worthwhile. In the meantime, it may be more worthwhile to take steps to protect your personal information, such as text messages and search history.

For those looking to make a difference, experts recommend advocating directly with tech companies, especially precedent-setting groups like Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), for better personal protections. It is these companies that will ultimately have to respond to law enforcement requests for user data, and many have pledged to reduce their surveillance (but also actively lobby against privacy legislation and regulations). To pave the way for better policies, tech companies should take a serious inventory of the data they collect, submit regular transparency reports, and most importantly, take public positions to defend privacy rights early and often.

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