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New birth control app paves the way for a burgeoning market, but what are the regulations? And where does all that data go?

The Instagram app logo is displayed next to an
The Instagram app logo is displayed next to an "Instagrammed" image on another iPhone on August 3, 2016 in London, England.
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In a historical move, the FDA approved its first birth control app as a contraceptive; but doctors and privacy experts are still skeptical.

Natural Cycles is an app developed in Sweden by Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl, and the technology relies on the collection and tracking of a user’s basal body temperature in order to determine her fertility levels on a given day. The app’s website states its user numbers at over 900,000, and its effectiveness at 93%.

Though Natural Cycles is the first birth control app to be FDA approved, it is one of many “femtech” apps that are beginning to saturate the market, and experts have begun to raise concerns regarding the lack of regulations surrounding the tech. Some fertility experts believe that the contraceptive technique utilized by the app is questionable in its accuracy, and internet privacy researchers are unsure of how Natural Cycles’ user data is being handled once inputted.

With the growing interest in these apps, it’s clear that there is a market for alternative forms of birth control, but what questions should women be asking and what information should they keep in mind when trying out new technologies? We speak with experts in both the fertility and privacy fields in order to gain better insight into this emerging field.


Jen King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society; her research focuses on public understanding of online privacy and policy implications of emerging technologies; she tweets @kingjen

Marguerite Duane, adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine and lead author of a study on the accuracy and efficacy of birth control apps; she tweets @mduanemd

Clara Paik, director of gynecology at UC Davis Medical Center; she is a practicing gynecologist and trains OBGYN residents in the UC Davis program