Period tracking apps, surveillance capitalism, health data privacy : Short Wave Health apps can be a great way to stay on top of your health. They let users keep track of things like their exercise, mental health, menstrual cycles — even the quality of their skin. But health data researchers Giulia De Togni and Andrea Ford have found that many of these health apps also have a dark side — selling your most personal data to third parties like advertisers, insurers and tech companies.

Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

When Tracking Your Period Lets Companies Track You

When Tracking Your Period Lets Companies Track You

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In their research, Andrea Ford and Giulia De Togni found that period tracking app users valued the control over their personal health the apps enabled. Most users they spoke with see the commodification of their personal data as a tradeoff they're forced to make. Ana Maria Serrano/Getty Images hide caption

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Ana Maria Serrano/Getty Images

In their research, Andrea Ford and Giulia De Togni found that period tracking app users valued the control over their personal health the apps enabled. Most users they spoke with see the commodification of their personal data as a tradeoff they're forced to make.

Ana Maria Serrano/Getty Images

Health apps can be a great way to stay on top of your health. They let users keep track of things like their exercise, mental health, menstrual cycles — even the quality of their skin.

But health researchers Giulia De Togni and Andrea Ford have found that many of these health apps also have a dark side — selling your most personal data to third parties like advertisers, insurers and tech companies. Their research makes clear that surveillance capitalism is here. You are the commodity.

Giulia and Andrea think the story doesn't have to stop here.

Their rebuttal to all this surveillance, of the commodification of our behaviors as users is simple: personal empowerment and regulation.

Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

This episode was edited by Sara Sarasohn and produced by Rebecca Ramirez and Margaret Cirino. Margaret also checked the facts. Patrick Murray was the audio engineer.