back to article What not to expect when you're expecting: Fertility apps may be selling intimate health secrets

Hundreds of millions of women turn to fertility apps to conceive or prevent pregnancy, and according to a new study those apps may leak very personal information including miscarriages, abortions, sexual history, potential infertility and pregnancy. The study considered privacy notices and tracking practices of 30 free, …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    It seems the first rule of business now is callousness, the majority of online business merely sees people as a means to wealth and disregards their humanity completely.

    Ethics is a county and a moral is an edible fungus!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Trouble is this outcome is inevitable with the blind pursuit of free (ie. £0 ) to the user/consumer software.

      If users/customers aren't going to directly pay to use my app then I will need to find other ways of funding that app and if advertisers are willing to pay good money for leads then I will orientate my business to maximise my revenues from the ad/referral networks.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Unhappy

        > Trouble is this outcome is inevitable with the blind pursuit of free

        Nonsense. I have a lot of paid apps which still overflow with ads and tracking. The culprit is human greed, the general lowering of inhibitions and the increasing ease of "monetizing" users suckers.

        I'm old enough to have seen the birth, rise and death of the freeware and shareware system: At that time developers were still proud of their handiwork, now it's mostly about making a quick & easy buck.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Didn't freeware and shareware turn into open source (maybe with a donation) and nagware?

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            > Didn't freeware and shareware turn into open source (maybe with a donation) and nagware?

            Nope, they were irradiated/cursed and turned into the zombie mutant horde we call "(smartphone) apps". As in they pretend to be old school free/shareware, but actually they are slimy aggressive monsters crawling along moaning "No brain! No brain!"...

            (It's not me who downvoted you BTW)

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        "then I will orientate my business to maximise my revenues from the ad/referral networks"

        I think there's a bit of a difference between putting adverts into apps and passing on people's private details for a quick buck.

        Though it's a fine line, I used to like Quick Editor as it did everything I needed with a few annoying full screen adverts that I could tolerate. But since a recent update, it's a full screen (often video) advert (often with a countdown timeout) every two or three autosaves, which if you set the autosave to 1 minute intervals... The dev responded to my comment to assure me that it doesn't happen during editing. He ought to try using his own product, because my "fix" was to revert to a backup of an older version. I'm on the lookout for something similar that understands that forcing adverts while the user is actively typing something is really bad for the concentration and annoying the user isn't going to get everybody thinking "let's buy the ad free one" (because, you know, trust...). It's more likely to result in the user finding an alternative, and writing how your product sucks on some random tech forum... :-)

        Seriously, I get the whole advertising revenue thing. I don't agree, but then I don't write apps. As long as it's mostly unobtrusive then we're cool. But when a dev sees those cartoon dollar signs and decides that feeding adverts is more important than the functionality of the app as an app, well, that's when it crosses the line. Sadly, I've been with Android long enough to see this numerous times. Either that, or a formerly popular app is bought out by an outfit that wrecks it by stuffing in loads of adverts and sometimes worse.

        [this is, by the way, one of the reasons I disable automatic updates]

        However, whether or not there are adverts is a different question to leaking information on whether or not the husband is a bit flaccid...

    2. Nightkiller

      When was this ever not the case?

  2. hoola Silver badge

    Apps

    Too many simply don't care and will just install any manner of Apps regardless of any permissions, data handling or terms and conditions.

    Those who do will look more closely but in many cases you options are to not install anything or make the best of a bad job that involves a lot of fiddling around. Hell even big-names are just as bad as small developers, the terms and conditions pages are just longer and even more incomprehensible.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Apps

      T&Cs are written to not be understandable and thus allow the app vendor to do what they want.

      But what the T&Cs say and what they actually do are often not the same thing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While I can see how such an app may help avoid pregnancy, I'm not sure I want to know how it can prevent pregnancy.

    1. Blazde Silver badge

      "Sorry darling, my health app says I have a headache tonight"

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Well, so long as nobody needs to pee on their phone "just to be sure"...

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Keep it down! This is the sort of thing social media 'influencers' would extoll and their unthinking (mostly )teenage followers would adopt...

  4. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Majority aren't GDPR compliant"

    What the hell is?

    I spent two years researching a critical aspect of GDPR compliance and found that effectively nobody gives a tinker's cuss about it - including governments and data protection consultants. All anyone does at best is to plod through the Regulation Article by Article doing a minimum perfunctory bit of stuff for each in isolation. The purpose of the regulation seems to have escaped notice by everyone, despite being mentioned more than 50 times in the document.

    Anyone who can find me a genuinely compliant "privacy policy" will deserve a medal the size of a soup plate.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "Majority aren't GDPR compliant"

      And then if you can find a company with 100% compliance with their own policy, I can only assume you're a unicorn rancher.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "30 free, popular, fertility apps available"

    They're free.

    Which means you are the product.

    It's 2021. This is supposed to be a surprise ?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "30 free, popular, fertility apps available"

      There are two really free ones on F-Droid:

      drip

      Fertility Test Analyzer App

  6. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Hundreds of millions of women turn to fertility apps to conceive"

    I think I've found your problem, unless there's some special smartphone attachment with which I'm unfamiliar.

  7. Nightkiller

    There's no such thing as a free lunch on the Internet, either. Where, oh, where is this Socialist paradise?

  8. Roland6 Silver badge

    The study authors?

    Looks like someone could be trying to claim someone else's research as their own...

    Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad: "Here is a list of projects that I supervise:

    2021- 2023: Security, Privacy, Bias and Trust in Fertility Technologies (CyFer), PETRAS funded, TBA"

    [Source: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/computing/staff/profile/maryammehrnezhad.html ]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The study authors?

      Perhaps she is just claiming to supervise her own work?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: The study authors?

        The alternative, given the dates and lack of other related research projects, is that this paper is the teaser that got them the PETRAS funding for the real research project.

  9. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Does the app show a map with all the local willing donors, for the apps users to know where to go, or avoid, depending on their current position in life?

    Creepy

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