When was the last time you had sex? Facebook may know the answer
Washington - Your best friend may not know when you last had sex, but it's possible that Facebook does.
At least two menstruation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, were sharing intimate details of users' sexual health with Facebook and other entities, according to a new report from Britain-based privacy watchdog Privacy International.
In some cases, those details, which are self-recorded by users in the app, included when the user last had sex, the type of contraception used, their moods and whether they were ovulating.
The findings raise questions about the security of the most private information in an age when employers, insurers and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.
The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics and monetize their apps through Facebook's advertising network.
Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook's ad system "does not leverage information gleaned from people's activity across other apps or websites" when advertisers choose target users by interest. BuzzFeed first reported the news.
Period- and pregnancy-tracking apps such as Maya and MIA have climbed in popularity as fun, friendly companions that provide insights into the often daunting world of fertility and pregnancy. They can also be used to track sexual health more generally, moods and other intimate data. But many apps aren't subject to the same rules as most health data.
Deborah Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, said people expect that their health data will be protected by the same laws that protect their health information in a doctors office, but many apps aren't subject to the same rules.
"Most people would want to make their own decisions about what's known about their sex life, about whether it's shared or not," said Peel. "Right now we have no ability to do that."
Plackal Tech, which developed Maya, said in its statement to Privacy International that it would remove the Facebook Software Development Kit from a new version of its service. There was no published response from Mobapp Development Limited, the company behind MIA, and the company did not have immediate comment.