How to delete your period tracking app data

Technology
Kristen Radtke / The Verge

Warnings to delete cycle tracking apps flooded social media in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end federal abortion protections. The data those apps contain, people feared, could be weaponized in court.

As abortion starts to be criminalized in parts of the country, fears around personal data aren’t unfounded. People who seek abortions in jurisdictions where it is now banned aren’t wrong to worry that their data could be used against them. But experts say that data from period tracking apps probably isn’t the biggest risk in a post-Roe landscape. People should be more worried about more mundane data — things like search history and text messages.

Even if they aren’t the primary weapons against people who might need abortions, period tracking apps do have sensitive information. These apps collect information on when people are in various stages of their menstrual cycle and can let people track things like PMS symptoms and sexual activity. Some offer to predict windows where people are most likely to become pregnant. The sheer volume of data can offer some insight into someone’s reproductive health. Theoretically, if they show someone stop menstruating for a few months and then start up again, it could hint that they may have had a pregnancy end.

broad leeway to decide what to do with the information they collect. Even ones with firm privacy policies say that they’ll give information to law enforcement if they’re required to by a warrant or subpoena.

But so far, at least, period tracking app data hasn’t been used to prosecute people suspected of breaking laws criminalizing abortion or other health care. It is a possibility and one people should take seriously, Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow with the Ford Foundation’s gender, racial, and ethnic justice team, told The Verge. It’s unlikely, though, that it’d be the main form of evidence used against someone suspected of having an abortion.

 Image: Flo

Period tracking can be a useful way to keep tabs on overall health or to monitor any reproductive health-related issues. Based on what experts are seeing so far, it’s not a huge danger for people who like having that information on hand and likely isn’t exposing them to a major risk.

But it’s also not unreasonable to be nervous about tracking any reproductive health-related information in light of the shifting landscape around abortion. So, if having the data sitting on a phone or server makes you uncomfortable, here’s what you can do:

How to delete tracking data

It’s easy to delete a period tracking app from your phone. Unfortunately, deleting an app doesn’t guarantee that your health data has been deleted along with it. For example, if you were to delete the Flo app, the company could retain your data for three years in case you decide to re-download the app.

This is because while some period tracking apps store data locally on your phone, many store your data in the cloud. In the case of the latter, your period data can remain accessible to the company and third parties unless you delete your account first. If you’re unsure which type of period app you have, try to remember if you created an account when you first downloaded the app. If so, the app likely stores at least some of your personal data on its servers.

Privacy Policy says it “may retain certain Personal Data and other information after your account has been terminated or deleted as necessary to comply with legal obligations, resolve disputes and enforce our agreements.” The Verge asked Flo to clarify what data may be kept after termination but did not immediately receive a response.

Glow:

  • In the Glow app, go to More (iOS) or the side bar (Android). Then head to Account Settings, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and select Delete Account. For iOS users, you can also find the Delete Account option under the Log Out button. Glow’s support page says deleting your account will also wipe your data from its system and that it cannot be restored.
  • You can also delete your account and personal data by emailing privacy@glowing.com.
  • The Verge reached out to Glow to see if there is a retention period after an account is deleted but did not immediately receive a response.
 Image: Clue

Clue:

  • In the Clue app, go to More > Support > Account Questions (iOS) / Account & Data (Android). Scroll down and tap “How Can I Delete My Account?” and select Delete my Clue account. You’ll be prompted to back up your data. After, enter your password and tap Delete account permanently.
  • Follow this up by emailing trust@helloclue.com. Clue’s privacy policy says you can request the company completely delete your data, including any past data sent to third-party services. Keep in mind that Clue says it may take up to 30 days for your data to be deleted. The Verge asked Clue to clarify whether your data can be provided to legal entities within that time period but did not immediately receive a response.

Ovia:

  • In the app, go to Settings > Reset or delete my account > Delete my account and data. Enter your username and password. You can also email support@oviahealth.com.
  • If you log into your Ovia account via Facebook, you must follow the methods listed above. Removing your Ovia account from within the Facebook app will not delete your account or data.
  • Ovia’s privacy policy lists several scenarios in which the company says it has the right to deny deletion requests, including complying with legal obligations. If you have consented to participate in research studies, Ovia says it can also delay deletion until said research study is completed. The Verge asked Ovia to specify how long its data retention period is but did not immediately receive a response.
 Image: Apple

Cycle Tracking on Apple Health:

  • According to Apple’s Health App & Privacy Policy, any health or fitness data recorded in the Health app on a device locked with a passcode, TouchID, or Face ID is “encrypted and inaccessible by default.” However, you can still easily delete your period data by going to Health > Sharing > Apps > Cycle Tracking > Delete All Data from “Cycle Tracking.”

Deleting data from period tracking apps that locally store data is easier, as the bulk of your data will be erased once you delete the app. However, you should still do your due diligence. Before you delete the app:

  • Revoke any sharing permissions you may have granted to third-party apps, health sharing services, or social media. You can generally do this in an app’s settings menu in the section where you set up app integrations.
  • Some period tracking apps that locally store data, like Cycles or Spot On by Planned Parenthood, give users the option to create accounts for a better user experience. Even if the app doesn’t have access to your health data, creating an account means the company likely has a record of your personal contact information. Reach out to customer support and request to delete your account. Keep in mind there may be a delay. Cycles, for instance, may take up to 60 days to fully delete your personal account information.
  • Double-check the app’s privacy policy to ensure there are no extra steps you need to take. This is also where you’ll find an app’s data retention policy and how long it may take for your data to be fully deleted.
  • If you want and the app allows, export your data for your personal records.

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