46. Femtech, Health Data, and Landscapes of Surveillance
Giulia De Togni, University of Edinburgh; Andrea Ford, University of Edinburgh;
'Femtech' is projected to have a market value exceeding $100 billion by 2030 (Hodgson 2022), with period tracking apps already having an estimated 50 million active users worldwide (Rosato 2020). Femtech extends into app-based services and biometric devices related to childbearing, menopause, menstrual disorders such as endometriosis, vaginal health, and concerns about hormonal balance and mental health. Companies are becoming actively involved in medical care and research, offering diagnoses, leveraging massive amounts of data, and positioning themselves as informational resources through training clinical staff. These technologies can illuminate understudied health phenomena and facilitate the integration of medical expertise and quotidian embodied experience (Ford, De Togni, and Miller 2021) yet within a context rife with colonial legacies and capitalist imperatives for how bodies are understood and managed. The data landscapes around period tracking apps and other FemTech devices not only entail important risks to privacy but raise concerns about surveillance more generally. Processes of monitoring and documentation mask and reinforce the gendered, sexed, raced, and classed exercise of power (Andrejevic 2015). FemTech innovations are implicated in various kinds of surveillance, including the data economy (Zuboff 2019), medical research, social surveillance, self-surveillance within neoliberal imperatives to optimize oneself (Bröckling 2015) and criminal prosecution relating to abortion (Knight 2022). Especially since the repeal of Roe versus Wade, a worldwide discussion has been opened about how users and developers of these technologies (including medical and research professionals) balance their benefits and risks. We invite original contributions to address this timely question.