DOD’s blog: Why a fertility app in the workplace shocked me

A workplace mobile app that tracks female employees’ fertility made the papers this week.

Yes, I was as surprised as most of you probably are.

Our fertility, or lack thereof, is not something most of us would consider to be a ‘workplace issue’.

However, over in the US this new app, called ‘Glow’ is being sold into workplaces to help female staff avoid expensive fertility treatments or a high-risk pregnancy.

Developed by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, it applies big data analysis to records of ovulation, body temperature and various health metrics.

It is not the only app tracking health in the US workplace, but so far is one of the few saying it will not sell the anonymised data to pharmacies, insurers or advertisers.

This news came in the same week as Samsung launched its newest smartphone, the Galaxy S5 with its integrated health and fitness tracker. There is no mention in the articles I read of what those behind this tracker plan to do with all the data this will generate. Perhaps they will do nothing with it, but it’s worth asking the question.

And in ongoing news, the NHS data-sharing project,, which will include collecting GP data, continues to cause concern among those worried the data may fall into the wrong hands. Even though most of the British public who were sent a brochure on it weeks ago claim to be oblivious of this nationwide project.

These three strands demonstrate an unstoppable trend in health data collection and redistribution. We now live in a world where data can be captured, managed and used for good (and no doubt bad, if not carefully policed). There is no going back.

Employers, and in particular HR departments, sit on huge amounts of data. Much of it passes between departments and outside providers.

Do you know how your workforce’s data is being used? Do you have cause to be concerened? 

Debi O’Donovan


Employee Benefits 

Twitter: @DebiODonovan