How period apps are making other people rich

Menstruation. It’s not many
people’s favourite
dinner table topic.
But even if you recognise
there’s nothing embarrassing
about your period, you might
still file it under personal
or try to be discreet about it.
This conversation vacuum
means there are still huge gaps
in our understandings
of our bodies.
But not everyone is clueless.
There are people out there
who know more about our
cycles than we do.
And for them this intimate
knowledge is just good business.
I’ve been looking into period
tracking apps and why
they’re worth so much money.
I’ve also been learning how
our hormones are making us
buy stuff without us even realising.
I’ve searched period tracking and
there are loads and loads that come up.
I’m going to download the
two ones that I know
are the most popular ones.
That one, right. So I’m just gonna keep
filling out both these apps
for the next couple of weeks
and I’ll report back.
These apps help you avoid
pregnancy or plan it
by analysing information about
your cycle that you input daily.
Female technology or femtech
is now its own booming industry
but it did take a while for
app developers to start thinking
seriously about reproductive health.
Back in 2015, when Apple
put out its health kit,
it could track all kinds of
information about your health, right?
It had the capacity to track all
kinds of really specific data points.
Even what your sodium
intake was.
– Health. Woo!
But it didn’t have any capacity
to track menstruation,
which was, you know, an odd
choice given that women
have needed to keep track
of that for ages.
And so we’ve seen a big
change, right, from sort of
the self-tracking space neglecting
women’s health altogether,
to, you know, over the past few
years there’s been a billion dollars
of investment from 2015
onward in femtech.
There are hundreds of apps
that are specifically oriented
towards tracking specific
aspects of women’s sexual
and reproductive health.
So it’s just exploded as an area.
We are just heading to Kings Cross
station now and we’re going to find
some women, hopefully on their
lunch break, and ask them a bit
about their period apps.
– Who are you going to talk to?
– I don’t know.
Do you use a period tracking app?
– Yes. – Yes, I do. – Yes.
– It does ask quite a few things.
– The heaviness, the lightness.
– How you’re feeling,
your mood, your flow.
– How many hours of sleep
you’ve got.
– How sexually active you are.
– Differences in any pain or discharge,
things like that.
– What your skin’s gonna be doing.
What your hair’s gonna be like.
– Stuff to do with your sex drive.
– There’s a lot actually that
you can kind of put in.
What’s weird about this app
is that it’s supposed to be
just for tracking your fertility,
tracking your period and it’s like
your own personal thing.
But there’s just so much
extra content in here.
There’s polls, there’s forums.
It’s almost like its own
social media platform,
all based around menstruating.
Poll of the day. How do you
deal with PMS?
Exercise, chocolate, cry or sleep?
What’s your go-to period product?
What fabric underwear do you wear?
Do you douche? No.
Why are we giving away all
that amount of data if it’s
not giving us back any kind of
analysis that is related to this data.
They just give us back
two sets of information.
When was our period and
when is our fertile moment.
Where does the information go?
Have you thought about that?
– No. I really don’t know.
– Oh my God, yes. Where does
that information go? I have no idea.
– God, I never even thought about
that. I never thought about that.
– So there are likely at least four ways
in which your data could be used.
One, it could be sold directly
to other companies for
marketing purposes,
for advertising purposes.
Two, it could be shared with other
parties and you don’t even know
who those third parties are.
It could be shared with research
institutions for research purposes.
Or it could be aggregated to
form different profiles and
those profiles can also be sold.
– Aggregated data is
usually anonymised.
So if you’re giving information about
women sort of as a group, right,
you might give information about
the average among your users
or kind of trends among your users.
This person is likely to get pregnant,
is likely to get sick and so on and so forth.
Here we go. Literally two
hours ago, I filled in a poll
on the app which asked about
UTIs, urinary tract infections.
I filled it in. And then I go
on Facebook and this is there.
OK. I have honestly 100% never
had this advert before. Not once.
So it turns out that our bits are
being mined for profits
and through apps, we’ve basically
become a silent partner.
But hormonal cycles were aiding sales
targets long before femtech was a thing.
Basically a mating and parenting
trade-off that happens
within the timespan of
about 30 days.
Day one is when women
get their period.
Oestrogen is going to increase
over the next 14 days.
Our sexual desire increases.
Non-human primate females,
when their oestrogen levels are high,
they’re actually becoming
more physically aggressive,
using threatening gestures
and even physically attacking
other females in their group
who they’re competing with for the
attraction of partners at that time.
In humans, this is kind of
acted out indirectly.
Marketers are now learning how
to exploit these subconscious drives
to sell us things we didn’t
even realise we wanted.
– What we found in our research is
that it’s increasing women’s preferences
for cosmetics, sexy clothing.
But whatever the product,
women are going to be more
receptive to the message if it’s
framed in a way that
communicates that this product
is going to help them compete
with other women.
As soon as the egg is pushed out,
another hormone takes off –
a hormone called progesterone,
which is a hormone that’s
very critical to maintaining
a pregnancy.
That’s going to increase
women’s preferences
for consumer products
that are associated
with perhaps parenting,
or nesting behaviour.
Products associated with home
goods, women would be
particularly interested in
when progesterone is high.
So when you take these
biological insights and
combine them with all the
data we’re throwing out there,
where do you end up?
Recently brands have started
to catch up with this information,
getting down to that fine-grained
detail on how we can
target consumers using the
information about
women’s hormone cycles.
Marketers are kind of agnostic
toward consumer welfare
and more focused on
the bottom line
and they always have been.
This isn’t new now that
we can reach consumers
in a more directed or targeted way
and that’s where the knowledge comes in.
If you know about it,
you can correct for it.
I do really believe that there are
like huge benefits to knowing
what’s going on with your body.
And for lots of people,
myself included, that means
tracking your cycle.
I’m going to try and keep an
eye on it and maybe think
about the kind of things that I’m
buying and see whether it could be
my hormones talking.
And I’m definitely, definitely going
to get a less creepy tracking app.
Thanks very much for watching.
If you have any thoughts,
leave them in the comments below.
Don’t forget to like and subscribe,
and if you like what we’re doing
then click here to
support the Guardian.

78 thoughts on “How period apps are making other people rich

  1. These apps are really good in general, but I wish there were some apps that were less "girlie". I use Glow because it syncs with Google fit, but I get sick of the inane "community" which seems to be full of idiot women obsessed with their boyfriends and nothing else ?
    Ps: you need ad blockers!

  2. What a load of complete buIish!t. And disgusting. No normal person is interested in your personal hygiene problems.

  3. “How your toothpaste is making other ripple rich” just stop. Also I’m not using a stalker app like that on my already stalkerific device.

  4. There are just too many unnecessary disgusting scenes, did you have to? Disgusting, should you show crapped underwear if you're talking about digestive problems? You're disgusting.

  5. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO DOESN'T TRACK MY PERIOD since I'm not sexually active?? (Please don't click on my face. I'm a germaphobe.)

  6. Apple Health: Well… maybe because Menstrubation isn't unhealthy? And they had HUMANS in mind and not sexes.
    Plus: they added it in didn't they?

  7. Lack of gratitude (especially for stuff that makes OUR lives easier) is a sign of low emotional intelligence; no pressure: we can always get rid of the apps, and go back to using leaves!

  8. Another videos showing how w so called minority group are being oppressed.
    Lemme guess, under socialism women wouldn't have to pay anything for these products?

  9. I didn't want to be reminded of the 'period' when I had my 'period', by watching the beginning of your video. However, I can attest to the fact that I put the executive's children thru college with my purchases of Pamprin and Midol (pain relievers sold otc for menstrual cramps!!!) Edit: couldn't find a doctor who would prescribe oxy to me!!!

  10. I’m so grateful I’m a transwoman and don’t have to worry about periods. I can’t imagine bleeding every month.

  11. I had this thought of where all the data about your menstrual cycle goes on these apps after getting hooked on the Handmaid's's Tale series late on and binging on it. I thought if a scenario like that were ever to emerge they could probably know who the handmaids should be at the click of a button but then again if we were in that dystopian mess they'd just get it from the NHS directly. Very interesting/disturbing video will try to be mindful of my purchase impulses and where I am in my cycle from now on

  12. you can make an informative video about periods without being gross.

    periods are not gross but by showing someone eating tomato sauce and dirty panties, you are MAKING it gross.

  13. People make money off your heart, liver, kidney's, eyes, hair, colon, you name it, year around, so a period is just a part of this profit driven machine

  14. I shouldn't be surprised but I was. Data collection is ubiquitous but this feels creepy and how classic that the apps supposed to empower us equally are used to mine us for data and sell to our unconscious patterns. Yuck. And I'm not even pre-menstrual.

  15. The two lesbians on the bus one works for the guardian she had an Antifa top on do you fund Antifa and why blame Boris should you be looking at Khan

  16. how did women survive for a hundred thousand years without apps or tracking? the modern woman has gone backward if this is becoming more of an issue than previous generations.

  17. Why are women talking about gross bodliy functions? Would The Guardians be talking about male bodily fucntions?

  18. Females are the biggest target anyway because they spend much on makeup clothing and a lot of useless crap. The big company's all know this.

  19. if it's such a normal thing then marketing on it shouldn't be necessarily viewed as worse than standard marketing/data gathering.

  20. What is wrong with you !! I feel disgusting now . Why would you ask women on their dinner break have some class . Seriously its a big fat nothing that is part of life . Brainwashing everyone to be upset and get monitoring and sharing is wrong . We are not victims we are women . Straight forward hard grafting stew cooking women . I dont want my insides to be on stage like this !! .

  21. I use one of the apps and I just fill in the date of my period. Thank God I never filled in any information other than my period date. It’s scary.

  22. They put 5 seconds of something completely normal and human in to purposely tick you misogynists off and you all fell for it, complaining like little babies on here.

  23. I have to dislike here.
    Using Apps to track the cycle is not a problem.
    The problem is to use Apps that don’t protect the personal data. Before buying an App the user can agree the terms of use and can see the App developer.
    Solutions. Use safety Apps that ensures data protection and that encrypt the data. Health from Apple, is a good example if you have an iPhone.
    Making a good research before buying an App is worth it.

  24. this period trackers aren't really accurate in giving me predictions because I have double uterus and that makes my period unpredictable

  25. The 'Femtech' industry sadly serves feminine product placement, promotion and sales rather than the betterment of reproductive health. I think there is a real opportunity here for health professionals to take up and provide valuable information to women about menstruation and reproductive health. I don't use apps for that very reason – I don't want to be 'marketed' to. Also, I don't feel comfortable giving away such personal information about myself because it isn't absolutely clear as to how those apps intend to use my information – it's too much of a price to pay. I prefer to speak to my GP – in a safe environment – if I have any health concerns, and track my period in my own way. There are some great tools (Evernote, Apple Notes) out there you can use to do the same thing – record and maintain a personal diary of your menstruation – and you can take that with you to your doctor and talk over should you have any concerns. Technology is a wonderful creation and should be used to serve people, not 'greedy' pockets.

  26. This is vomiting ??? why these ppl call themselves journalists. This is how men must be feeling these days??

  27. I have one and it helps a bunch, it has come to the modern age and super easy!but I don’t like the idea of people making money off of something that shows you are healthy ? but it’s helpful

  28. I can’t believe people in the comments find periods gross in this day and age. it’s only blood grow up and stop whinging

  29. i really don't think that people are searious about being mad that the producers now have a better way to know what WE want(im a male but "WE" is rethorical here :D)

  30. I dont use an app to track mine. I know my moods and body. when I have a really irritable day I know my period will start exactly one week later. . .and I know the moment my period starts. it's like a physical shift i feel. eff paying for an app….it makes you more body dumb.

  31. If data is sold for marketing you are actually going to get a more precise exposure to the products you need, and if not (if they do it in a deceiving way), you just notice it, and don't buy the product. End of the story. Please close this extreme left channel, you are going to ruin our planet with your sick ideology.

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