Here in the US, the recent slew of Supreme Court decisions has kicked off waves of civil debate. Of these, the most vigorous is certainly around abortion rights.

This is a deeply important issue, and compared to events out in the real world, nothing in this newsletter really moves the needle. Even when it comes to the intersection with tech, there are far more important voices — please go read them instead, especially if it's a choice between that and the next few pages!

But if you're still here, there is something related to apps that's worth touching on: many people are suddenly reconsidering the privacy issues related to in-app data collection. Specifically, in this case, of period tracker apps.

Of the media articles I've read, almost all seem to focus on the most intuitive, first-order risks: 'based on the data tracked in an app like this, a malicious party could infer that an individual app user became pregnant and then was no longer pregnant…which could be used as evidence'. The threat vectors here could involve hacks/database leaks, or legal maneuvers to compel an app to provide raw data.

Technically, both of those are certainly possible. And it makes sense these are the risks getting airtime, because they're definitely the easiest angle for a layperson to understand. But there are also other, far less straightforward surveillance risks related to mobile app data collection, and these aren't new.

People tend to vastly underestimate the difficulty of parsing through massive datasets like this to find patterns in metadata, but that doesn't make the concerns any less significant or legitimate. Ultimately, events like these are an important reminder: even though privacy improvements often cause short-term pain and disruption for the mobile industry, it's still extremely important for all of us to make progress.


PS, for readers in the United States: happy Fourth of July weekend!

Alex Bauer

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