Ovia Health provides a suite of apps for family planning and wellness. With the app Ovia, users input their personal information, and the app tracks conception efforts as well as how to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Once the child is born, the app will document its health.
Ovia employees were also encouraged to use the app, receiving a $1 gift card for each day the app was used. It has been revealed however, that the Ovia Health has been providing data to employers – for a price.
Employers who pay Ovia Health can offer employees a specialized version of the app that relays their health data — in an “anonymized” form — to an internal employer website that is accessible to human resource personnel. It has been claimed that the data sharing has benefitted companies by minimizing healthcare costs, and employees are discovering medical issues and are better able to plan ahead.
Not everyone agrees. Despite repeated claims of privacy, data can still be gleaned from person-to-person interaction, and thus have an adverse effect on an employee’s health insurance. Insurance companies could potentially use the data to increase premiums or deny coverage. Health and privacy advocates say that women using the apps face possible discrimination, as employers may evaluate an employee’s performance against that employee’s next steps in family planning. In addition, there are concerns regarding security risks such as a data breach.
Ovia claims that when a woman signs up for their app, they agree to its “Terms and Use.” This grants Ovia a “royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license, throughout the universe” to “utilize and exploit” their de-identified personal information for scientific research and “external and internal marketing purposes.” Ovia maintains the right to “sell, lease or lend aggregated Personal Information to third parties.”
Anthony Nguyen, shareholder of employee rights law firm Shegerian & Associates, has weighed in on the issue.
“Even if the argument can be made that such practice conforms with privacy laws, it sets up additional information that employers may use to make discriminatory decisions in the workplace,” Nguyen says.
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