Be careful using period-tracking apps after abortion ruling, AG Nessel warns

Some cell phone apps may provide a digital trail of incriminating data about a person’s decision to end a pregnancy

click to enlarge Period-tracking apps may provide a digital trail of incriminating data about a person's decision to end a pregnancy. - Shutterstock.com
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Period-tracking apps may provide a digital trail of incriminating data about a person's decision to end a pregnancy.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday warned women about using cell phone apps that track fertility and menstruation as the fate of the state's abortion ban hangs in the balance.

The consumer alert was posted less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.

“There are a lot of unknowns as we face a post-Roe era in this country, but one thing that remains certain is that consumers can protect themselves and their private information,” Nessel said in a statement. “I implore Michigan residents to read the fine print in the user agreements for applications and programs because their registration often gives companies the right to sell personal information to other companies that can then make it available to advertisers, or whoever wants to pay to obtain it.”

After the Roe v. Wade was overturned, data and legal experts warned that period and fertility-tracking apps could be weaponized by law enforcement because the technology leaves behind a digital trail of data that could be used as evidence if someone seeks an abortion.

“Delete those fertility apps now,” tweeted Gina Neff, a sociologist and director of the Minderoo Center for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge.

Nearly a third of American women track their menstrual cycle with an app, according to a 2019 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Some legal experts argue that deleting the apps isn’t enough to protect personal information about a decision to end a pregnancy. Other digital information could be more damning, like text messages and internet search history.

Abortion could soon become illegal in Michigan. In May, the state’s 1931 abortion ban was temporarily halted by a Michigan Court of Claims judge who is presiding over a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood that argues the state’s constitution protects abortion rights.

In a separate case, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is urging the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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