EPIC Advisors Dr. Deborah Peel and Prof. Helen Nissenbaum were recently quoted in the Washington Post and Boston Globe regarding the Ovia pregnancy app. Ovia allows women to track their menstrual cycles and highest fertility days in order to help increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. But there are serious questions about Ovia app data being made available to the womens’ employers through company health insurance programs.
According to reports, “An employer can look at aggregate data to see how many employees using the apps faced high-risk births or pregnancies. They also could ascertain the top questions users were researching, and how soon new mothers planned to return to work.”
This raises serious concerns among privacy advocates. Data from the app could be used to cut health benefits, or cross-referenced to identify users, or in other discriminatory ways. Helen Nissenbaum, called for government regulation of apps like this. Otherwise, there’s “far too many opportunities” for data to be compromised.
“It’s kind of one of these devil’s bargains,” Nissenbaum said. Companies offer wellness apps to cut costs, “But on the other side, what’s happening is your employers now have a window into your life.”
Dr. Peel questioned the need for the app altogether. “The fact that women’s pregnancies are being tracked that closely by employers is very disturbing,” said Dr. Peel. “There’s so much discrimination against mothers and families in the workplace, and they can’t trust their employer to have their best interests at heart.”
For more information please visit www.EPIC.org. Defend Privacy. Support EPIC.