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Senators Seek FTC Investigation of Fertility App

An exterior view of the Federal Trade Commission building
(Image credit: Future)

There is bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill that a fertility app may be fertile ground for privacy violations.

Citing an investigation by the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) that found mobile app Premom may have compromised its users' privacy, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) have asked the FTC to investigate.

In a letter to FTC chairman Joseph Simons, they said Premom may have used deceptive practices in their "troubling" data collection and sharing. The senators are particularly concerned that the app apparently shares user data without their consent.

The mobile app allows users to track fertility cycles to figure out the best time to try and get pregnant, using personal and private health data. The senators said the app has been downloaded a half-million times and is a top fertility app search in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

Joining in the letter to Simons were Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

The senators want answers to the following questions:

1. "Does the FTC treat persistent identifiers, such as the non-resettable device hardware identifiers discussed in the IDAC report, as personally identifiable information in relation to its general consumer data security and privacy enforcement authorities under Section 5 of the FTC Act?

2. "Is the FTC currently investigating or does it plan to investigate Premom’s consumer data collection, transmission, and processing conduct described in the IDAC report to determine if the company has engaged in deceptive practices?

3. "Does the FTC plan to take any steps to educate users of the Premom app that the app may still be sharing their personal data without their permission if they have not updated the app? If not, does the FTC plan to require Premom to conduct such outreach?

4. "Please describe any unique or practically uncommon uses of encryption by the involved third-party companies receiving information from Premom that could be functionally interpreted to obfuscate oversight of the involved data transmissions."

5. "How can the FTC use its Section 5 authority [over unfair and deceptive practices] to ensure that mobile apps are not deceiving consumers about their data collection and sharing practices and to preempt future potentially deceptive practices like those Premom may have engaged in?"

On its Web site, Premom parent Easy Healthcare Corp. said it is "committed to safeguarding any information or data that may be collected through our site or mobile application and to ensuring that you are fully informed as to how your information will be used."

It also points out on its Web site that Silicon Review magazine named it one of the top 50 most trustworthy companies of 2020.