Pregnancy-tracking app Ovia sold users’ data to employers
In an era where there is an app for almost everything in our lives, it isn’t surprising that an app has been developed to help women track their pregnancies. One in particular, Ovia, recently made the news — for all the wrong reasons. As women faithfully logged intimate details about their pregnancies into the app, Ovia was allowing employers to purchase this data about their employees — a massive privacy violation that also raised red flags for potential workplace gender and pregnancy discrimination issues.
Ovia allows users to not only track their pregnancy, but their fertility as well. Users input data on everything from their medications to their mood to their sex drive. If they become pregnant, they continue to put in information throughout their pregnancy, all the way through delivery. There is even a space to input data about the baby’s birth and delivery, including his or her name, the location of birth, and whether there had been any complications during delivery.
The app can be useful for women who are trying to conceive and for those who are seeking to stay on track with a healthy pregnancy. But as a California employment discrimination lawyer can explain, the app’s manufacturers have sold this information to employers — a revelation that shocked many users.
Ovia Health offers employers a de-identified, aggregated form of data that is accessible to human resources personnel. The app gives users incentives, such as a $1 gift card for every day that they input information, to encourage them to enter as much information as possible. As a result, users enter an extraordinary amount of information about their bodies. Employers can then use this information for their own purposes.
While Ovia Health claims that this type of tracking is offered to employers as a way to discover medical problems and minimize health-care spending, this explanation seems unlikely. Instead, information about women seeking to become pregnant and about women who are pregnant is more likely to be used to discriminate against women in the workplace.
In any given workplace, the number of women who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant is typically low — and the subject of pregnant employees is often fraught. Many employees make careful decisions about when to disclose their pregnancies, and with good reason. While pregnancy discrimination is illegal under both California and federal law, this type of workplace discrimination still occurs. If an employer can discover an employee’s pregnancy by purchasing app data before she is ready to inform the company, it opens up a range of possibilities — including that the employee may be demoted or fired because she is pregnant.
If you have used Ovia or a similar app to track your fertility or pregnancy, your employer may have access to de-identified data about you and your fellow employees. This may be used to make decisions about your health care, or even about your employment status.
Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, and may be the subject of a legal claim. At PLBSH, we believe in advocating for employees who have suffered workplace discrimination or injustice. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a skilled California employment discrimination lawyer.