UPDATE: Jun. 26, 2022, 12:11 p.m. EDT This article was updated for clarity and context
In the post-decision furor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, period tracking apps have become a new area of digital concern, as many question whether the apps’ stored personal health data could be used to target people seeking abortion care.
But period tracking app Stardust, which combines traditional menstruation tracking with the movements of our moon and the planets, has come out ahead of many others by announcing itself as the first recognized app to offer end-to-end encryption for all users. In a statement via the app’s TikTok page posted on June 24, Stardust’s founder Rachel Moranis explained the new privacy update was already set to be announced prior to the overturning after initial concerns about data protection were raised last month. The app has previously posted about its pledge to never sell user data and protect user privacy.
Period apps in a post-Roe world: What you need to know
“What [encryption] means is that if we get subpoenaed by the government, we will not be able to hand over any of your period tracking data,” she says in the video. “It is completely anonymized from your login data. We can’t view it. You are the only person that can see this.”
End-to-end encryption (or “e2ee”) ensures that the data from a sender or user’s system or device is protected during transmission, even from host servers, and can’t be decrypted by anyone other than the intended recipient. It’s not a complete fix to security concerns — Messaging apps offering e2ee services, like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram, have been called out in the past for failing to disclose their full policies, offering much more limited encryption services than advertised, and relinquishing the protection of data once it’s reached its “endpoints.”
While there’s no current precedent for a period tracking app to turn over its user data to authorities for a criminal investigation, other apps have been known to hand off user data in sensitive cases, and, last year, popular period tracking app Flo received an FTC complaint about misleading users and sharing personal health data. Both activists and privacy experts agree that the recent decision, and Roe v. Wade’s presence as a legal bulwark against invasive abortion regulation, could have echoing effects on personal privacy.
According to the company’s TikTok announcement, the app’s encryption will go live on Tuesday, June 28 alongside the release of the Android version and new iOS update.