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Period app Maya shared sensitive medical and sexual data with Facebook: Privacy International report

Bangalore-based women’s period and pregnancy app Maya shared your sensitive medical and sexual information with Facebook, and with another third-party, shows research by UK-based group Privacy International. Maya essentially shared every single interaction between you and the app, starting from when you open it, to whether you have protected or unprotected sex, your period cycles, contraceptive pill use, how you’re feeling, and whether you have acne or breast tenderness — with Facebook, according to the research. 

Developed by Plackal Tech which is now owned by Sheroes, Maya can be used to track pregnancy, to have or avoid having a baby, and to track health and period cycles. It told Facebook when you open its app; Facebook can easily assume from that simple notification that you’re probably a woman, probably menstruating, possibly trying to have or avoid having a baby. Even though you are asked to agree to their privacy policy, Maya started sharing your data with Facebook before you got to agree to anything.

Maya was launched in 2014, and was acquired by Delhi-based women’s social network Sheroes in January 2019. It has seen 7 million downloads, has 1.2 million active users, is available in 14 languages, in 192 countries. “Facebook’s SDK for Android allows app developers to integrate their apps with Facebook’s platform and contains a number of core components: Analytics, Ads, Login, Account Kit, Share, Graph API, App Events and App Links,” said the research.

Maya also shared contraceptive pill usage data with Facebook. It also gathers intimate details about your sexual life and intimate life, requesting information such as whether you’ve had sex, and whether it was protected or unprotected. Unlike the other data, which was shared in a text format with Facebook, Maya encoded this data by qualifying protected sex as “2” and unprotected sex as “3”.

The app asks you to specify what you’re using it for. It accordingly asks how you’re feeling stressed, sexy, sleepy, naughty, depressed, anxious, angry, forgetful. It also offers up symptoms acne, breast tenderness, blood pressure, insomnia, weight loss/gain, among others. Maya then shared all this information with Facebook.

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On collecting details of sexual intercourse, Maya told Privacy International this:

All data accessed by Maya are also essential to the proper functioning of the product. Predicting information pertaining to menstrual cycles is complex and dependent on thousands of variables

Maya also encourages users to enter their own notes and comments in a diary-like section and also in a reminders section. “As we conducted traffic analysis, we entered ‘something very sensitive entered here’ in the diary section of the app to see what would happen,” said Privacy International’s research, and found that what they wrote was shared with Facebook.

Shared data with third-party CleverTap

The research also found that Maya shared data with Wizard Rocket, a former name of a company now known as CleverTap, which described itself as “a customer retention platform that helps consumer brands maximize user lifetime value, optimize key conversion metrics, and boost retention rates.”

Maya’s privacy policy on third-party data sharing contains the following statement:

“We may share Your information with our sponsors, and/or business partners. Your Information could be shared so that you may receive newsletters, offers, information about new services, and other information, if applicable. The information collected from You and other users may be analysed in different manners.”

“Besides this general information, no other information is provided to users about the exact recipients with whom data might be shared, what this data could entail, and what these ‘different manners’ are. The users are not even told if this data [is] anonymised or not,” the research pointed out.

What Maya’s makers said

After Privacy International shared the report with Maya’s makers Plackal Tech, the company said it has removed both the Facebook core SDK and Analytics SDK from Maya. This latest version is live on Google Play Store and will be submitted to the Apple App Store for review by this weekend, said the company.

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We continue to use the Facebook Ad SDK, post opt-in to our terms and conditions and privacy policy. Maya does not share any personally identifiable data or medical data with the Facebook Ad SDK. The Ad SDK helps us earn revenue by displaying ads that our users can opt out of by subscribing to Maya’s premium subscription. – Maya

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