Consumers swap time-tracking apps seeking more privacy after Roe v. Wade ruling – TechCrunch

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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Consumers are ditching their current period-tracking apps in favor of what they consider safer options in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that allows individual US states to criminalize abortion. The app-switching trend is impacting all kinds of time-tracking apps, including the industry-leading Flo, which has a 47% share of the US period-tracking app market, according to data from Apptopia. The app may have lost customers to rival apps as well as new users from others over the weekend. Other apps are seeing similar trends.

The patterns of switching apps indicate that consumers are seeking more privacy, as many of those benefiting from this trend are companies that have made public statements in support of strengthened data security and privacy practices. But it’s also clear that consumers don’t necessarily know which apps to trust. The current beneficiary of this increased switching activity is a potentially problematic app called Stardust, which had yet to implement its new privacy protections when it made promises to users.

The relative newcomer to the period tracking market caught the eye by promoting itself as a small, female-led team that wanted to provide users with a more secure app. As a result of his claims, Stardust saw its daily average downloads increase by as much as 6,000% over the past weekend, Apptopia said. Those claims resonated with consumers, leading the app to #1 on the App Store on Saturday. But regarding data security, a small team isn’t necessarily an advantage. TechCrunch discovered several data privacy issues with the version of the app users downloaded over the weekend, including sharing users’ phone numbers with a third party.

Despite these issues, app intelligence company Sensor Tower said the app got 82% of its total 400,000+ lifespan last Saturday through Sunday.

tracking apps

Another top app, Clue, also benefited because consumers were looking for alternatives. Apptopia found that Clue’s app saw a 2,200% increase in installs this weekend after noting in the press that it would not reveal sensitive information to states. Sensor Tower reported that Clue reached its all-time high as the No. 15 free app on the App Store on Saturday. It has since fallen to number 93, suggesting the rank change resulted from a wave of app switchers.

Compared to June, Glow’s ovulation app saw its average daily downloads increase by 21%, and period tracker Eve saw its average daily installs increase by 83%, Apptopia said. Several other apps also saw more installs on Saturday, June 25. An app called Natural Cycles – Birth Control saw the average daily number of installs increase by 53%; another called Period Tracker from GP Apps saw a 17% increase; and the Femometer app saw a 10% increase. The company found that single-digit increases were also seen in apps including My Calendar – Period Tracker and Ovia Fertility & Cycle Tracker.

Finally, the leading app Flo rose slightly on Saturday due to app switching activity. Flo jumped from number 197 on June 23 for the ruling to number 187 on Saturday, June 25, Sensor Tower said. It has now moved up to No. 180 at the time of writing. It’s worth noting that Flo’s average daily installs had been declining for several months, Apptopia had reported — likely due in part to the news of its 2021 settlement with the FTC over past privacy violations. This indicates that consumers have been thinking about data privacy long before the Supreme Court decision.

Image Credits: Flo (Opens in a new window)

Following the court’s ruling on Friday, Flo issued a statement hoping to stem the tide of app switchers or those inclined to delete their accounts. It said:

“Flo will always stand up for women’s health and are committed to protecting our users’ data and privacy. In addition to our existing security measures (read more about this here), we will soon launch a new feature called “Anonymous Mode” – an option allowing users to remove their identity from their Flo account. Finally, Flo will never require a user to register for an abortion or provide details that he believes should be kept private, and users can delete their data at any time. We firmly believe that our users deserve complete control over their data, and are here to support them every step of the way.”

Clue also provided a comprehensive response to Roe v. Wade on its website, emphasizing compliance with strict European data privacy laws and the use of encryption. GP Apps, the creator of Period Tracker, has also released a strong statement, although its privacy policy states that it would comply with legal requests and subpoenas. (It noted, however, that consumers can choose to use its account without an online account, which would then only store data locally on the user’s device.) Other companies have also published statements on their websites and social media accounts.

But without a deeper analysis of each company’s privacy policies and more sophisticated testing of each app’s privacy and security protections, it’s hard to recommend that using any third-party period-tracking app at this point is a 100% safe decision regardless of their statements and claims.

One possible solution to this problem is to use only Apple’s Health app, where end-to-end encryption of users’ health records is available via iCloud. Unfortunately, no data on Apple’s first-party apps are available, so we’ll never know how many consumers made this choice.

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