Period Tracking Apps Are Sharing Your Very Personal Data, as One Woman Discovered

Daily Mirror journalist, Talia Shadwell, was bombarded with ads for pregnancy and baby clothes, and she wasn't even pregnant.
Fabienne Lang

Facebook ads are eerily on point most of the time. All you have to do is whisper a word like 'cake,' and your feed will instantly be bombarded with cake recipes and stores where you can buy your baking ingredients. Ok, it may not be because of a whisper, but a Google search or a cooking app does the trick. 

When matters aren't so personal, these ads aren't such a headache. However, as one woman recently found out, when very personal data such as your period dates are shared via an app, Facebook ads become intolerable. 


What's the story?

Daily Mirror journalist, Talia Shadwell, uses an app that helps track her period. A lot of women do this for many reasons, and it helps women plan parts of their lives accordingly. 

However, when Shadwell started seeing only pregnancy and baby-related ads on her Facebook feed, she started wondering what was going on. It was all the more surprising as Shadwell knew she wasn't pregnant, and nor does she have any children. 

It so happens that Shadwell's period tracking app was selling her data to big tech companies. 

Shadwell figured this out when she remembered to check her period tracking app and noticed she'd forgotten to input her last period's dates. Warning comments about her period being late were flashing from the app. 

By putting two and two together, Shadwell realized the app's data had informed the tech companies. They then created algorithms believing she must be pregnant and started offering her 'sage' advice and options for her unborn child. Creepily, as soon as Shadwell corrected and inputted her cycle information, the ads stopped.

Shadwell took to Twitter to share her story with her posts going viral in no time. Many women and men have responded, echoing her concerns.

What's so unsettling about this?

To begin with, this information is private and should only be shared when and if the woman in question wishes to disclose it.

Secondly, these algorithms may be smart and may fine-tune ads to the latest Google search. However, they are not sympathetic or empathetic. Many women responded to Shadwell's tweets and mentioned how, after their miscarriages, they still received baby-focused ads, cutting into their pain even more. 

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Others who had recently given birth started seeing ads about losing weight and which workouts to do to tone their stomach back. Not very helpful when you may be feeling a little low post-baby.

The list goes on. Here are the insightful and interesting tweets Shadwell posted:





Here are some responses:

Some ads really have the opposite effect: 

With men also agreeing about how ridiculous these algorithms can be: 

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