The Dark Side of FemTech: Security, Privacy, and Safety Concerns

The Dark Side of FemTech: Security, Privacy, and Safety Concerns

FemTech, a term encompassing digital technologies focused on women’s health and well-being, has been identified as a potential threat to users by experts from Royal Holloway, University of London, Newcastle University, University of London, and ETH Zurich. According to their research, FemTech applications and IoT devices collect a wide range of sensitive data about users, including personal contacts, cameras, microphones, location, medical scans, and other personal information, posing significant security, privacy, and safety risks.

The study reviewed existing regulations related to FemTech in the UK, EU, and Switzerland, revealing gaps in regulations, compliance practices, and enforcement. It was found that current EU and UK medical devices regulations lack references to FemTech data and user protection, while GDPR and Swiss FADP include references to sensitive data that overlap with FemTech data. Industry practices were also scrutinized, exposing non-compliant practices in data collection, sharing, and security.

The research highlighted a lack of research and guidelines for developing cyber-secure, privacy-preserving, and safe FemTech products. Dr. Maryam Mehrnezhad, the lead author of the research, emphasized the presence of multiple threat actors interested in FemTech data, such as fertility and sex information. The study authors have been conducting security and privacy research on FemTech since 2019 and have shared their findings with industry and regulatory bodies.

Professor Mike Catt of Newcastle University stressed the need for regulatory bodies to update and strengthen guidelines to ensure the development and use of secure, private, and safe FemTech products. Many of the apps reviewed in the study were found to access mobile and device resources, potentially exposing sensitive data like contacts, cameras, and location. Specific permissions, such as access to system settings and other accounts, were also identified as imposing security and privacy risks.

The growing market of FemTech presents both opportunities and challenges. While these technologies have the potential to revolutionize women’s health and well-being, it is crucial to address the security, privacy, and safety concerns associated with them. Stakeholders, including policymakers, industry players, and regulatory bodies, need to collaborate to establish robust guidelines and practices that protect users’ data and ensure the safe use of FemTech products.


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