Apple Cycle Tracking fertility predictions

Apple's fertility tracking feature uses sensors to measure the fluctuations in body temperature which correlate with a person's ovulation cycle to help users know if and when they're ovulating. 

Introduced in September 2022, the feature builds on Apple's existing Health app and Cycle Tracking app, and comes as part of Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple's watchOS 9 and iOS 16 operating systems.

Apple launched its native machine learning-based Cycle Tracking app with iOS 13 and WatchOS6 in September 2019.

Operator: Apple
Developer: Apple
Country: USA
Sector: Health
Purpose: Predict ovulation
Technology: Prediction algorithm
Issue: Privacy
Transparency: Marketing

Risks and harms 🛑

Apple Cycle Tracking fertility predictions system has been associated with potential privacy concern and the possibility of the technology being misconstrued as a form of birth control, potentially leading to unwanted pregnancies.

Despite Apple's focus on privacy and the fact that its health products are end-to-end encrypted, some commentators criticised the company for introducing its fertility tracker shortly after the US Supreme Court over-turned the 1973 Wade vs Roe ruling that legalised abortion across the US. In theory, the ruling makes it possible for law enforcement and other public authorities to access women's cycle tracking data.

Others are concerned that Apple's fertility tracking, and similar technologies, can be easily be misconstrued as birth control, resulting in unwanted pregnancies. Organisations claiming people can use their product to avoid becoming pregnant require sign-off from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A Privacy International investigation had previously discovered that a number of period-tracking apps were sharing sensitive information with Facebook.