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First Response's Bluetooth pregnancy test is intriguing — and a privacy nightmare

First Response's Bluetooth pregnancy test is intriguing — and a privacy nightmare

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First Response, a pregnancy test company owned by household product manufacturer Church & Dwight, released its Pregnancy Pro test app in March, which it markets as the "first pregnancy test that syncs with your smartphone." The Bluetooth-enabled test comes with a free partner app that's available on Android, iOS, and Amazon. It was last updated a week ago. Once downloaded and synced with a specific test, the app walks users through taking the test and then keeps them entertained while they wait three minutes to get their results. None of this is necessarily problematic. The app can help women track their ovulation cycle, as well as their pregnancy, and can maintain a calendar with their baby appointments. However, what is problematic are the permissions the app requests, particularly on Android, which gives Church & Dwight access to users' sensitive information.

This is a list of the app's permissions on Android, emphasis my own:

  • Device & app history - retrieve running apps
  • Identity - find accounts on the device
  • Calendar - read calendar events plus confidential information, add or modify calendar events, send email to guests without owners' knowledge
  • Contacts - read your contacts, find accounts on the device
  • Phone - read phone status and identity, directly call phone numbers
  • Photos/Media/Files - modify or delete the contents of your USB storage, read the contents of your USB storage
  • Storage - modify or delete the contents of your USB storage, read the contents of your USB storage
  • Device ID & call information - read phone status and identity
  • Other - full license to interact across users, receive data from the internet, full network access, view network connections, pair with Bluetooth devices, access Bluetooth settings, prevent device from sleeping, use accounts on the device.

Church and Dwight also list a Privacy Policy for the app, which explicitly says in bold, "If you opt-in, we may share your Personal Information with third parties for third party marketing purposes." Not only can the app call users' contacts without their permission, search their device for social media accounts, and send emails to calendar event guests without permission, but it can also use all that data to create tailored ads.

Pregnancy-Pro-product-bluetooth.png

It's naive to think a company wouldn't do this in 2016, and maybe some women appreciate it. If you're having a child, receiving coupons on diapers and baby food helps. But still, pregnancy is highly intimate, just as First Response notes on its website. Sharing personal data with a brand, especially one that sells it to third-party marketers for advertising, introduces a wealth of questions. Chief among them is: just because you can connect something to the internet, should you? And then, do we really need a Bluetooth pregnancy test? First Response said in an emailed comment to The Verge: "Church & Dwight Co., Inc. puts users’ privacy first and works to ensure that the trust users place in our products is recognized and respected with the utmost discretion."

4/27, 4:51 PM ET: Updated to include First Response's comment.

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