Think three in a bed sounds fun? Not when your phone’s in the picture

Millions of women are sharing their sex lives with period-tracking apps – and Facebook

Private life: apps have been sharing information with Facebook about contraception use, physical symptoms and when users had sex. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Private life: apps have been sharing information with Facebook about contraception use, physical symptoms and when users had sex. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

Not content with knowing where you have been, who you’ve been talking to, which of your friends you want to date and who you are likely to vote for, it now looks as if Facebook also knows when you have been having sex – if you have been using a period-tracker app, that is.

A BuzzFeed investigation this week found that apps used by millions of women to track their menstrual cycles, including MIA Fem and Maya, had been sharing personal data with Facebook and other third-party services. The information included contraception use, physical symptoms and, yes, when users had sex. (Mercifully, it seems who we have been doing it with remains out of Facebook’s sweaty grasp.)

Menstrual-tracking apps can be incredibly useful, from showing when your period is likely to come to helping you manage problematic symptoms or maximising your chances of conceiving. But should we reconsider sharing information with them? It is no secret that we already give a staggering amount of data to platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. So it should come as no surprise that we are happy to share the most personal information with our phones; they’ve got everything else, so why not?

Mia Fem and Maya: period-tracking apps can share user data with third parties
MIA Fem and Maya: period-tracking apps can share user data with third parties. Photograph: App Store

The fact that we so happily punch in highly personal information into apps we can’t guarantee are secure is really just the latest of example of how the measurement and quantification of even our most intimate behaviours is second nature. If someone told you they had written down every instance of when they had recently had sex into a notebook they kept by their bed, you’d probably start backing away pretty rapidly. But typing it into our phones seems normal, even logical.

With so much of our private, personal information floating around in the cloud, ready to be exploited by advertisers, politicians or the platforms themselves, it may seem academic that our sex lives are also under the data microscope. But resisting this monopoly is one way to stop the commodification of our emotional life, to stop thinking of intimate, meaningful moments as simply data to be recorded, measured and shared. Three in a bed might sound fun – but we need to think a little more deeply about who we have invited under the bedsheets when our phones are in the picture, too. – Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.