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The rise of ‘menstrual surveillance’: why digital privateness is a feminist subject
Your vagina has been digitized. So have your ovaries. So has your interval. Over the previous couple of years, there was an explosion in “femtech”, digital instruments and companies centered round ladies’s well being. There are constructive features to this, however there’s additionally a darkish aspect, together with the rise of what has been referred to as “menstrual surveillance”. Firms are more and more conscious that feminine our bodies are temples of profitable info, and are exploiting this knowledge in new and ever-more-dystopian methods.
Take Ovia Well being, a set of family-planning apps, for instance. In line with a latest report by the Washington Publish, Ovia “has turn out to be a strong monitoring software for employers and well being insurers, which, beneath the banner of company wellness, have aggressively pushed to collect extra knowledge about their employees’ lives”. That knowledge consists of intimate details about your fertility, your menstrual cycle and the development of your being pregnant. Activision Blizzard, a online game firm, is considered one of varied employers encouraging its employees to make use of Ovia’s monitoring companies. The data collected by the apps is then shared with the corporate, permitting it to see what number of of its workers are pregnant, attempting to get pregnant or going through high-risk pregnancies.
Activision Blizzard has been experimenting with worker monitoring know-how for some time; in 2014 it incentivized workers to make use of Fitbits. The online game firm’s vice-president of world advantages proudly advised the Publish: “Every time we launched one thing, there was a little bit of an outcry: ‘You’re prying into our lives.’ However we slowly elevated the sensitivity of stuff, and ultimately folks understood it’s all voluntary, there’s no gun to your head, and we’re going to reward you should you select to do it.” Ah sure, I forgot to say the rewards! Activision Blizzard pays workers a princely $1 a day to make use of Ovia.
It’s disingenuous for employers to explain monitoring initiatives like this as “voluntary” in the event that they’re strongly encouraging folks to make use of them. It’s additionally disingenuous to say, as Ovia does, that you simply don’t want to fret about privateness points, as a result of all the information supplied to employers is aggregated and anonymized. There’s loads of proof that “anonymized” knowledge can simply be cross-referenced with different knowledge and traced again to the supply.
It’s well-established that corporations discriminate towards pregnant workers: the implications of this form of menstrual and being pregnant monitoring are terrifying. Significantly, as Rachel Dubrofsky, co-editor of the guide Feminist Surveillance Research, advised me over e-mail, in a local weather the place anti-abortion zealots are attempting to take away all reproductive rights from ladies in America – “For example, the latest try by Texas legislators to make abortion a capital offense, punishable by loss of life, and the Ohio ‘heartbeat invoice’, outlawing abortion as soon as a heartbeat will be detected.” Given this local weather, Dubrofsky notes, “apps equivalent to Ovia are notably regarding for his or her potential to additional limit the rights of ladies to have management over their our bodies, make ladies’s entry to reasonably priced healthcare more and more precarious, and put ladies’s jobs in danger”.
‘Upskirting’ criminalized in English legislation
Taking a photograph of somebody’s underwear or genitals, buttock or genitals with out their consent is now a criminal offense in England and Wales, punishable by as much as two years in jail.
The brand new laws is essentially due to Gina Martin, who was a sufferer of “upskirting” at a music pageant in 2017. Martin reported the incident to the police however found that it wasn’t an offence beneath English legislation; she rapidly began a marketing campaign to alter that.
Whereas Martin is thrilled with the brand new legislation, she factors out that extra must be finished to boost consciousness of the problem. “If a brand new legislation’s there, nice – but when we don’t find out about it or aren’t reporting it, [then] it doesn’t do something,” she advised BBC Information. “We have now to construct an image of how a lot this occurs, as a result of it occurs so much.”
The ‘consent condom’
Stupidest concept of the week goes to one thing referred to as the “Consent Pack” of condoms, designed by an Argentinian advert company as a advertising and marketing gimmick for Tulipan, which makes intercourse toys and contraceptives. It takes 4 palms to open this condom, which is meant as an instance the significance of consent. As journalist Holly Baxter famous on Twitter: “The worrying factor is that this frames consent as a ‘dialogue’ and implies that the actual subject is that ladies would possibly make it up/exaggerate after consensual intercourse. This can be a product designed primarily to guard males from rape accusations, to not shield ladies from rape.”
Greater than 4 in 10 ladies concern refusing companion’s sexual calls for
Talking of consent, a new examine by the UN’s sexual and reproductive well being company, UNFPA, has discovered that “greater than 4 in 10 ladies in 51 international locations surveyed, really feel they haven’t any selection however to comply with their companion’s sexual calls for”.