Woman laying in bed in darkness, looking at illuminated phone screen

New report illuminates significant lack of data protection for fertility app users under current Australian privacy laws

Fertility apps used by Australian consumers when they’re tracking their periods, trying to conceive or tracking pregnancy symptoms, have serious privacy flaws, new research published by UNSW today shows. This research was funded by the UNSW Allens Hub for Technology Law & Innovation.

The mobile apps collect deeply sensitive information about users’ sexual activities, health conditions, emotions and menstrual cycles. Many of them are intended for use by children as young as 13.  

The UNSW study reveals unfair and unsafe privacy practices in popular fertility apps, underscoring the urgent need for updated privacy laws to deal with the data privacy risks consumers now face.  

“These fertility apps collect the most intimate data, often at vulnerable moments in a consumer’s life, when they’re trying to conceive or manage health conditions or new to understanding their cycles,” says Dr Katharine Kemp, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law & Justice. “They should expect to receive the clearest information about how that data is collected, used and kept safe, real choices, and the strictest standards of de-identification for any shared data. They’re not getting that.” 

Dr Kemp’s research uncovered confusing and misleading privacy messages; lack of choice about data uses; inadequate de-identification measures when data is shared with other organisations; and companies keeping health data for up to 7 years after the consumer stops using the app, exposing them to unnecessary risks of data breaches.  

Dr Kemp says this is another illustration of why Australia’s privacy laws need to be updated to clarify what data is covered by the Privacy Act; what choices consumers can make about their data and how; what data uses are prohibited; and what security measures companies need to have in place. 

Read the full report here!

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