Theres a dark side to womens health apps: Menstrual surveillance

Employers and health insurers are using family-planning apps to gather intimate information about your fertility, menstrual cycle and pregnancy

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The rise of menstrual surveillance: why digital privacy is a feminist issue

Your vagina has been digitized. So have your ovaries. So has your period. Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in femtech, digital tools and services centered around womens health. There are positive aspects to this, but theres also a dark side, including the rise of what has been called menstrual surveillance. Corporations are increasingly aware that female bodies are temples of lucrative information, and are exploiting this data in new and ever-more-dystopian ways.

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Take Ovia Health, a collection of family-planning apps, for example. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, Ovia has become a powerful monitoring tool for employers and health insurers, which, under the banner of corporate wellness, have aggressively pushed to gather more data about their workers lives. That data includes intimate information about your fertility, your menstrual cycle and the progression of your pregnancy. Activision Blizzard, a video game company, is one of various employers encouraging its workers to use Ovias tracking services. The information collected by the apps is then shared with the company, allowing it to see how many of its employees are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or facing high-risk pregnancies.

Activision Blizzard has been experimenting with employee monitoring technology for a while; in 2014 it incentivized employees to use Fitbits. The video game companys vice-president of global benefits proudly told the Post:Each time we introduced something, there was a bit of an outcry: Youre prying into our lives. But we slowly increased the sensitivity of stuff, and eventually people understood its all voluntary, theres no gun to your head, and were going to reward you if you choose to do it. Ah yes, I forgot to mention the rewards! Activision Blizzard pays employees a princely $1 a day to use Ovia.

Its disingenuous for employers to describe tracking initiatives like this as voluntary if theyre strongly encouraging people to use them. Its also disingenuous to claim, as Ovia does, that you dont need to worry about privacy issues, because all the data provided to employers is aggregated and anonymized. Theres plenty of evidence that anonymized data can easily be cross-referenced with other data and traced back to the source.

It is well-established that companies discriminate against pregnant employees: the implications of this sort of menstrual and pregnancy monitoring are terrifying. Particularly, as Rachel Dubrofsky, co-editor of the book Feminist Surveillance Studies, told me over email, in a climate where anti-abortion zealots are trying to remove all reproductive rights from women in America For instance, the recent attempt by Texas legislators to make abortion a capital offense, punishable by death, and the Ohio heartbeat bill, outlawing abortion once a heartbeat can be detected. Given this climate, Dubrofsky notes, apps such as Ovia are particularly concerning for their potential to further restrict the rights of women to have control over their bodies, make womens access to affordable healthcare increasingly precarious, and put womens jobs at risk.

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We have to build a picture of how much this happens, because it happens a lot, said Gina Martin, a victim of upskirting who campaigned to make a law against it. Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Upskirting criminalized in English law

Taking a photo of someones underwear or genitals, buttock or genitals without their consent is now a crime in England and Wales, punishable by up to two years in prison.

The new legislation is largely thanks to Gina Martin, who was a victim of upskirting at a music festival in 2017. Martin reported the incident to the police but discovered that it wasnt an offence under English law; she quickly started a campaign to change that.

While Martin is thrilled with the new law, she points out that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the issue. If a new laws there, great but if we dont know about it or arent reporting it, [then] it doesnt do anything, she told BBC News. We have to build a picture of how much this happens, because it happens a lot.

The consent condom

Stupidest idea of the week goes to something called the Consent Pack of condoms, designed by an Argentinian ad agency as a marketing gimmick for Tulipan, which makes sex toys and contraceptives. It takes four hands to open this condom, which is supposed to illustrate the importance of consent. As journalist Holly Baxter noted on Twitter: The worrying thing is that this frames consent as a discussion and implies that the real issue is that women might make it up/exaggerate after consensual sex. This is a product designed essentially to protect men from rape accusations, not to protect women from rape.

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More than four in 10 women fear refusing partners sexual demands

Speaking of consent, a new study by the UNs sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, has found that more than four in 10 women in 51 countries surveyed, feel they have no choice but to agree to their partners sexual demands.

Original Article : HERE ; The Ultimate Survival Food: The Lost Ways

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