Are Period Tracking Apps Reliable?

This video aims to explore the governance of sexual technologies – through a  unique case study of period tracking apps. This project may interest a wide range of media consumers, specifically engaging with users of femtech, or health and wellness applications. It will investigate how algorithms in period tracking apps are taught to predict users cycles, and the ethical barriers it faces with accuracy and privacy. 

After scrolling through the ADM+S website, I was inspired by research under health and institutions, as these are two very important sectors that try to improve society and daily public wellness, which is what I think the roles of AI and automation are striving to achieve too. 

In particular, articles exploring the surveillance of sexual health data across digital network platforms and online spaces really struck me, as I questioned how this intimate data is being collected, stored and where it is possibly being shared. As sexual health data encompasses a broad range of devices and applications, I thought of period tracking apps as an example of an AI based tool used daily, and a well accepted technology that does not come across to be conflicted with the common worries of AI.

The first challenge to tackle was understanding how the algorithm within these apps are trained to not only understand menstrual cycles, but sex, gender and sexuality as a whole. To approach this, I sought out to interview Cecily Klim from the ARC centre in Automated-decision making, an expert researcher in emerging technologies within contraceptive advocacy and provision. 

My learnings from the interview and research gathered from this project, drew connection to key themes we have explored across this semester in AI and automated decision making, from the lack of transparency in privacy across digital platforms, to more subtle issues such as potential biases that arise from the creation of algorithms. 

Throughout the process of our own individual research and craft, my knowledge of understanding what AI and ADM is much more nuanced, compared to the beginning of this studio. Being an extremely relevant topic to today’s society, I am truly grateful to have engaged in discourses and readings every week that allowed me to interrogate new imaginings and my  own everyday entanglements with AI.


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