How private is your period?

Laura Shipp

Royal Holloway, University of London

Menstrual apps track intimate personal data, including data on people’s reproductive cycles, sex lives and overall health. It’s sensitive data that those behind the apps need to keep secure.

Laura Shipp recently looked into the privacy practices of 30 Android menstruapps to see how such apps keep data secure. Her research revealed menstruapp privacy practices are far from uniform, and that there are a few things certain manufacturers could do to safeguard people’s privacy.

Laura will discuss her research in full as part of IMPACT2020.

About Laura

Laura’s work intersects geography and cyber security; she uses feminist geopolitics to reconceptualise cyber security and its focus. Specifically, Laura investigates how non-consensual data use by companies behind period-tracking apps and other “femtech” can endanger people.

Laura joined Royal Holloway’s CDT in Cyber Security in 2017 following an MSc in
Geopolitics and Security. Her recent outputs include a co-authored paper assessing the privacy practices of a set of period-tracking apps. The paper highlights inconsistent privacy practices across said apps, drawing wider attention to an increasingly pressing security issue.

Discussion points:

  • Menstrual apps are unique in the combination of data they collect.
  • Period-trackers and other ‘femtech’ products have been chronically under-researched by cyber security researchers.
  • Laura’s research aims to attend to this issue by interviewing developers and users of these apps
  • She measured how the apps present information and behave on a number of privacy related topics, such as the complexity of the language used, the information collected by them, the involvement of third parties and how they describe user rights.
  • Her ongoing project focuses on where the industry has room to improve and considers some of the potential impacts of these privacy issues on their users.

About Laura

Laura’s work intersects geography and cyber security; she uses feminist geopolitics to reconceptualise cyber security and its focus. Specifically, Laura investigates how non-consensual data use by companies behind period-tracking apps and other “femtech” can endanger people.

Laura joined Royal Holloway’s CDT in Cyber Security in 2017 following an MSc in
Geopolitics and Security. Her recent outputs include a co-authored paper assessing the privacy practices of a set of period-tracking apps. The paper highlights inconsistent privacy practices across said apps, drawing wider attention to an increasingly pressing security issue.

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