Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Ovia Health, which describes itself in a rather wonky way as "the digital platform transforming episodic care into continuous support while improving family wellbeing and fostering positive outcomes," offers up three apps to help you on your reproductive health journey. There's Ovia Fertility, Ovia Pregnancy, and Ovia Parenting.
Ovia's Fertility tracking app says it "pinpoints your ovulation, predicts your period, and sends you a daily fertility score." It also offers users things like the ability to track basal body temperature, cervical fluid, cervical position, medications, tips and expert advice, health coaches, and more. And it says it uses "proprietary algorithms based on cutting-edge fertility research to help you track your cycle and predict your exact ovulation and fertile window." That's some technical stuff going on there. It definitely offers more than just the ability to enter when you started your period in a calendar. Which users might appreciate...or it might be a bit much. The app is free to download and use but you'll need a sponsored employer/health plan to unlock the premium benefits. How does Ovia look from privacy perspective? Well, they look pretty wonky there too.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
How do they say they plan to use this information? Well, in the free consumer version of the app, to show you ads and sponsored content using an advertising profile they create on you (nothing is ever free, remember). Ovia does clarify that they will only share personal information that directly identifies with advertisers and sponsors if you opt-in. We're unsure how clear this opt-in process is, though, so be careful when using the app and don't opt-in to any data sharing that directly identifies you. Ovia also says they can use your information for personalization of content, to send advertising and marketing content, market their products and services, and to conduct clinical and scientific research.
And in 2020, Consumer Reports reported on some concerns about privacy shortcomings period tracking apps, including Ovia, had when it came to the handling of the sensitive user data it can collect.
FInally, Ovia says they use personal information to create de-identified data that they can then use for research purposes. They also say they can use personal data to create aggregated analytic data and statistics which they may share or sell with third parties. Finally, the say they "may disclose or sell de-identified data derived from patient information (as defined by the California Consumer Privacy Act); if so, such patient information is de identified in accordance with HIPAA safe harbor or expert determination de identification requirements." We hope all this de-identified and aggregate data is handled properly so no one can ever be re-identified by their patient or personal data. However, we should mention that it has been found to be relatively easy to re-identify some anonymized data, especially if location data is included.
We do want to give credit where credit is due. Ovia does do a good job explaining how they will handle law enforcement and government requests for their users' data. The have a page on their site that outlines how they handle such data requests and it does all the things we like to see here at Mozilla. They indicate they won't voluntarily disclose users data, that they require valid and legally binding court orders such as subpoenas with clear requests for what data law enforcement is requesting, and that they won't provide data beyond the scope of the valid request and, when possible, will try to limit the scope of data provided. This is all great stuff in our post-Roe v Wade world. Good on you Ovia for providing this clarification.
What's the worst that could happen with Ovia. Well, Ovia does offer coaching services that happen online or over the telephone. And they say that "we collect the information you give to our coaches, which may occur online or through recording of telephone coaching sessions for quality control and monitoring purposes." They also say "your health coach and managers will access your personal data to help you. If you receive Ovia as a benefit from your health insurer or employer health plan, nurse care managers from your health plan (and your employer, if you opt-in to such data sharing) may also have access to your personal data." That's a lot of people who could potentially have access to some sensitive, personal information. Could that data be leaked or shared or accessed by an employee who shouldn't have access or, even worse, handed over to your employer if you weren't clear you were giving consent? It seems possible, if hopefully unlikely. Still, something to consider. And don't forget, Ovia is sharing data about you with Facebook. whether you like it or not. BOO!
Tips to protect yourself
- If you receive Ovia as a benefit from your employer, do not opt in to sharing of your health data with your employer
- When signing up from outside of US, do not give consent for Ovia and its advertising partners to use your location and personal data, including data about your health, fertility and pregnancy, to display personalized advertising! If you are from the US, better do not use this app.
- Opt out of third party personalized advertising by going to the Settings menu of your Ovia app and selecting “Do Not Sell My Info” (for California users) or “Manage My Privacy Settings” (for non-US users). US-based non-California users better use another app.
- Do not connect GoogleFit or Apple Health to the app
- If you participate in coaching services, do not provide sensitive personal information, as the app collect the information you give to their coaches, which may occur online or through recording of telephone coaching sessions for quality control and monitoring purposes.
- Do not sign in via Facebook - better sign in via email and password
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images and videos, other files)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device does not erase your personal data.
Device: Can’t Determine
What can be used to sign up?
Facebook log-in possible
What data does the company collect?
First name, email address, date of birth, baby’s name or nickname
"Cycle type and length, date of last menstrual period, expected due date. Data you provide about your lifestyle, health, fertility, pregnancy and parenting. If you synch a fitness tracker to the Ovia app or share data with Ovia through Google Fit or Apple Health, they collect the data you synch to Ovia."
The app requests access to contacts
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In 2019, the Washington Post reported criticism of Ovia Health for sharing data — though de-identified and aggregated — with employers, who could purchase the period- and pregnancy-tracking app as a health benefit for their workers. People using the employer-sponsored version must currently opt in for this kind of data-sharing.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Ovia Health does not offer a bug bounty program. Vulnerabilities can be reported to [email protected]
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
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