Bosses Nab Intimate Details on Workers—via Fertility Tracker

Data is so useful, some employees are paid to use Ovia: 'WaPo'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2019 12:40 PM CDT
Your employer might know more about your pregnancy than you think.   (Getty Images/LittleCityLifestylePhotography)

(Newser) – Some of the 10 million users of Ovia's health apps, including women trying to conceive via period tracking and expectant mothers recording everything from bodily functions to sex drive, are sending some of that data straight to their bosses. That's according to the Washington Post, which reports employers can pay Ovia for a special version of the app that companies then offer to employees alongside other health benefits. Ovia then gives the company access to workers' health data in a "de-identified," aggregated form. The idea is that companies can minimize health-care costs as workers benefit from improved health and well-being via counseling and other services, according to Ovia CEO Paris Wallace. But health and privacy advocates worry users, including those offered financial incentives by bosses to use the app, may be helping companies slash health-care benefits. At the same time, they might be identified using the data provided, though Ovia says contracts bar against this.

Even so, "it's relatively easy for a bad actor to 're-identify' a person" by cross-referencing various data, especially in companies "with few pregnant women on staff," per the Post. That raises concerns about how information on sleep, diet, weight, pregnancy status, birth details, number of children, and planned time to return to work is being used, particularly as "pregnancy can be one of the biggest and most unpredictable health-care expenses" for companies that fund workers' health insurance. "There's so much discrimination against mothers and families in the workplace, and they can't trust their employer to have their best interests at heart," a rep for Patient Privacy Rights tells the Post. Promoted within the last month by Women's Health and Woman's Day, Ovia boasts of having "one of the largest data sets on women's health in the world." Bloomberg also flags rivals Flo, Glow, and Clue. (Highly personal data is going right to Facebook.)

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