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Data watchdog issues reminder to fertility apps about protecting user privacy

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The UK’s data protection watchdog has issued a reminder to fertility app developers to ensure they protect users’ privacy following a review of the sector.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it was sending out the reminder following a review of period and fertility apps to better understand how they process personal data and whether they had a negative impact on users as a result.

The ICO said while no serious compliance issues or evidence of harm were identified, it was important to reiterate the need for developers to protect personal data, especially when sensitive information was involved.

In its reminder to industry, the ICO has shared four practical tips for app developers to ensure they comply with data protection obligations: Be transparent, obtain valid consent, establish correct lawful basis, and be accountable.

Emily Keaney, deputy commissioner for regulatory policy at the ICO, said: “Signing up to an app often involves handing over large amounts of personal information, especially with apps that support our health and wellbeing. Users deserve peace of mind that their data is secure, and they are only expected to share information that is necessary.

“When we announced we were looking into period and fertility apps, we received a helpful response from users who were able to share their experiences with us. We want to reassure users that we haven’t found any evidence these apps are using their data in a way that could cause them harm.

“However, our review has highlighted there are improvements app developers could make to ensure they are meeting all their obligations to be transparent with their users and keep their data safe.”