What the most popular FemTech apps know about you


From tracking periods to calorie intake, breast checks, and sexual health, we’ve trusted a bunch of apps with our most intimate data.

There’s even a term for those apps – FemTech, encompassing fertility, maternal health, menopause, menstrual health, pelvic and sexual health, and contraception issues, among others.

It was coined in 2016 by Ida Tin, founder of Clue, one of the most popular female health apps. Women are big spenders when it comes to health, and the FemTech market alone is estimated to reach approximately $7.5 billion in 2024. This is forecasted to nearly double by 2029.

To see what user data they collect and what they do with it, we’ve reviewed ten popular FemTech apps based on their privacy practices disclosed on the App Store as part of Apple’s privacy requirements. Two among the ten are fitness apps – while, strictly speaking, they are not categorized as FemTech apps, I think we can agree that fitness equals health, and many of us have some sort of fitness app installed.

All apps collect your personal data, whether just to keep the app running or for profit purposes – they may also share your data with third parties.

Since we consult FemTech apps in the most intimate moments of our lives, be it an abortion or sexual stamina, privacy is critical. Best case scenario – advertisers tap into your data to try and sell you some health product or service. Worst case scenario – you’re targeted by law enforcement for exercising your reproductive rights.

As it stands, at the time of publishing, there are 35 types of data or privacy points that Apple requires developers to disclose if their app is – or may be – collecting. These include contact information like name or phone number, financial information like payments or credit, and user location.

Data collection falls within two general categories – information used to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies and data that may be collected and linked to your identity.

The good news is that FemTech apps are less data-hungry than, let’s say, dating apps we’ve reviewed during recent Valentine’s Day. Bad news – they still want your data, and it’s nearly impossible to foresee where it will end up.

Period trackers

Period trackers turned out to be the most data-hungry FemTech apps we looked into.

Flo Period and Cycles Tracker app is a female health and well-being guide used by 300M women. As the developer itself indicates on the App Store, it can collect up to 15 different data points. As per Apple, “privacy practice may vary based, for example, on the features you use or your age,” so it varies per user.

Naturally, like most companies, it vows to protect your personal data and store it securely.

“Your health data will not be shared with any company but Flo, and you can delete it at any time,” the app’s privacy description reads.

However, it also notes that certain types of data, including purchase history, coarse location, user ID, device ID, and product interaction, may be used to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.

In its privacy policy on the website, Flo notes that it shares (with user consent) some non-health personal data with AppsFlyer – a mobile marketing platform – to promote Flo’s services, which in turn sends your data to integrated partners like Pinterest, Google Ads, Apple Search Ads, Meta Audience, and others.

Flo data sharing policies

Flo boasts that it’s “the first female health app to introduce further privacy protections with Anonymous Mode.”

Another app we chose for the review is Clue, “trusted by millions of people worldwide” to track various experiences like cravings and sex drive, log birth control methods, tap into the ovulation calendar, and track pregnancy, among other things.

It may collect 13 out of 35 data points, including, like Flo, what the App Store categorizes as “Sensitive” info. To learn more about what that means, you need to head to the developer’s privacy policy, which is always linked to on the App Store, so it is not hard to find.

In Clue’s case, sensitive info may include your cycle information and your experiences should you choose to log them in (body temperature, sexual intercourse, and hair quality, among others).

Clue has also listed the “essential third-party providers” needed to provide core services to its users. They include Amazon Web Services as a hosting provider; Braze, which helps with in-app messages, push notifications, and emails (you can’t opt out of Braze, just certain types of messaging from Braze); Firebase for Android users; and Sparkpost, a company that processes names, email addresses, and other personal information that may be included in transaction emails.

Breast check

“This app is funded through grants and sponsors, not by selling you data,” a greeting message of the Know Your Lemons app reads. This is an app designed to help you do a periodic self-examination of your breasts. It claims it doesn’t collect any of the 35 Apple data points, and it seems to be accurate as it doesn’t ask to log your information, except for your email.

Of course, as with all the other apps you install on your phone, it does communicate with the web. Within three minutes of installing the app on my phone, it contacted 22 different web domains, some more than once.

As per Apple, those domains could be from content you interacted with within the app, say, playing a video. You can learn more about what domains your apps contact by going to Settings-App Privacy Report and then clicking on a particular app you’re interested in.

While we are under no illusion that our data is 100% safe, apps related to breast health really stand out when it comes to privacy.

Another app we took a closer look at was Keep a Breast. It also doesn’t collect any data or require any form of registration or provision of specific personal data. Of course, if you subscribe to news and updates, you must enter your email within the app, but that’s about it when it comes to data collection.

However, these apps are pretty basic, and you can easily find similar instructions on how to give yourself an exam on widely available resources.

FemTech data collection

Sexual intimacy

Sexual health apps are another popular FemTech subcategory. Apps like Emjoy and Lover: Intimacy Coaching are designed to help you rediscover your libido.

Emjoy is seemingly not too data-hungry and collects 9 data points. So does Lover: Intimacy coaching, the sex therapy app designed to “treat common dysfunctions without pills and from the complete privacy of their own bedroom.”

Both of them require registration upon installation. Lover, opposite Emjoy, claims it may collect “Sensitive” info, so it prompted me to dig deeper into its privacy policies. The developer seems pretty honest about its data-collecting and sharing practices. Yes, it can, upon your consent, sell your data to third parties, and yes, your data is not 100% safe.

“We employ a number of technical, organizational, and physical safeguards designed to protect the personal information we collect. However, security risk is inherent in all internet and information technologies, and we cannot guarantee the security of your personal information,” it said.

It also offers detailed information on how to exercise your right to opt out of the sale of your personal information.

Fitness apps

As I’ve already mentioned, fitness apps are not officially categorized as FemTech. However, being a curious explorer of this market, I felt the need to include them in my little research since staying healthy has much to do with proper diet and exercise.

BetterMe is one of the personalized workout and nutrition apps heavily advertised on social media. Like many other fitness apps, it promises results without seemingly putting too much effort into it – just 10 to 15 minutes of exercise a day to eventually reach your dream body.

It is quite data-hungry and collects 13 out of 35 data points, with photos, videos, and audio being among the most sensitive ones.

Typically, these apps function better the more information you give them so that you can get personalized advice, diet recommendations, and exercise plans. To get a plan on BetterMe, you might be asked to enter data like height, weight, fitness level, food preferences, and even medical conditions like diabetes.

Be mindful that companies, including BetterMe, engage with various third-party providers, including the hungriest of them all – Google and Facebook. So go through privacy policies very carefully and learn about your rights before consenting to anything.

MyFitnessPal is another popular app within the category. It functions more or less like a calorie counter, helping you stay on track with your diet while learning about your nutrition. It knows how much you weigh, how much you want to weigh, how many calories you consume, and when you slip. That is, of course, if you choose to enter guilty snacks, too.

The app, same as many other similar calorie counters, lets you scan a food so it can automatically log the calories. However, that means you need to give it access to your camera.

Pregnancy trackers

I'm no stranger to using these apps, either. It’s pretty exciting to get educational information every day when you’re expecting – how big the fetus is, how it’s developing, etc. Some might even find time for those apps after the baby is born and use them to log notes such as the baby's weight, nursing progress, pictures, medication, and vaccination, among many other things.

Pregnancy+ (collects 11 data points) and Baby Breastfeeding Tracker (9 data points) are among the popular maternity-related apps.

Baby Breastfeeding Tracker stands out as the only app from our ten reviewed ones that collects precise user location data.

Pregnancy+, on the other hand, says it may collect sensitive data. The developer's privacy policy specifies that birth plans, contraction details, and pictures of mothers' bellies are among the sensitive data that the app may collect.

Again, the data is collected only with user consent, so we strongly advise reading policies and not accepting terms blindly. You might be okay with them, but you should know what you’re signing up for.

Conclusion

Just by downloading any given app from any given developer, you’re exposing yourself to a variety of privacy issues. If there's any information you wouldn't like a single soul to know, simply consider not logging it into any device or app because it's never 100% secure.

While app developers might adhere to the highest standards, keep in mind that there's always a third party involved. There's always someone else, whether it's just to maintain the messaging functionality within the app, a hosting provider, or an advertiser.

That brings me to my last point – no matter how convenient it might seem, never use a single sign-on and simply log into a new app using your Facebook or Google account. Even if it doesn't share any health information with, let's say, Facebook, for the tech giant, it opens up a whole new opportunity to profile and target you.

By all means, go ahead and use these or other apps since so many of them were created with the idea of empowering women. But do it mindfully.