Why data will revolutionize global female health
When tracking your cycle, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re also helping other people and scientific research.
Data provides a historic opportunity to advance research for global female health. Female health and reproductive health are vastly under-served and under-researched. We at Clue want to help fill this gap.
We work closely with respected universities and scientists to improve female health and to find insights that benefit our users. The more reproductive health data scientific researchers have access to, the better they will be able to conduct targeted research that might someday lead to significant improvements in female health.
Clue’s users are part of a global movement. When tracking your cycle, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re also helping other people and scientific research.
We believe in being honest and transparent about what Clue does with data. If you have a Clue account, we may use and/or share some of your anonymous data for academic and clinical research, either internally and/or with universities and companies. We only work on research projects that benefit female health and well-being. We are not selling nor sharing your personal user data with anyone and we never will.
It’s private. It’s intimate. It’s your life expressed in numbers. It’s your health data. And it can create a healthcare revolution. I believe we need to seize on health data’s fantastic potential to help us understand our bodies and our lives, and revolutionize female health globally.
Like many people, I often connect data — and big data in particular — to fears about surveillance, security breaches and corporate profits. What about my privacy? Will my every move be monitored and controlled? Will others have access to very personal information? Will I be refused service because people have access to my private information? Will I be defined as nothing more than a statistical probability? The list is daunting.
Yet here I am, CEO of a company where our users trust us with their most intimate data. Why? Because the opportunity to advance healthcare is massive: for the individual, for science and for humankind. There is the incredible potential when an individual person can not only track their personal health patterns, but also see how they compare and correlate with millions of other people doing the same. It’s a global movement to revolutionize female health, powered by data.
I feel deeply that we owe it to the Clue community — our users, our investors and our team — to be responsible and transparent about what data we collect and why, and what we do to protect our users’ privacy.
1. We’re using data to advance research for global female health.
Right now, we are working with scientists at Stanford University, Columbia University, the University of Washington and the University of Oxford on research projects that we hope will improve the lives of people all over the world. We can only make those advances with data.
On numbers alone, mobile health tracking enables us to generate data on a scale that skyrockets past existing medical research. We can paint pictures that no one could have even dreamt of, simply by looking at an individual’s data.
For example, the two largest long-term studies currently cited in research tracked between 650 and 2,700 women over a period of decades (or between 30,000 and 275,000 menstrual cycles).
In contrast to that, millions of Clue users enter data every single month.
That means a vast quantity of information that we can analyze and interpret based on the experiences of not just a handful of people from one place, but millions of Clue users. Our users are from over 180 countries, from teens to over 60 years old, from menarche to pregnancy to menopause, with regular and irregular cycles and every possible health condition from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to endometriosis and beyond.
This is a truly global collection of data about the menstrual cycle, and to our knowledge, it’s the first of its kind. Cycle tracking is not only transforming research on female health, but is directly improving the lives of Clue’s present and future users. This information informs Clue’s community of users about the importance of the menstrual cycle as a vital sign; updates information about the menstrual cycle, informing the global averages; and serves as a resource for further research.
What does this look like when you apply it in the real world?
More accurate predictions
We’re able to provide a better service and experience for our users, so they have a more accurate understanding of their own cycles. We have already updated the app’s period predictions based on user data to provide more accurate cycle statistics.
Smart health correlations
The app will change your individual predictions based on data from similar people of your age, cycle length and symptom pattern.
Faster and more efficient research
Female health and reproductive health are vastly under-served and under-researched. We at Clue want to help fill this gap. The more reproductive health data universities have access to, the better they will be able to conduct targeted research that might someday lead to significant improvements in female health. As I previously said, we’re collaborating with major research institutions (like Columbia, Stanford and Oxford). Some examples of what these sorts of studies will address are the differences in bleeding patterns with respect to age (from adolescence to menopause), and how birth control and lifestyle choice impact these patterns. Another focus is on how different diseases affect the menstrual cycle. Those studies are currently running and we will of course share the findings with everyone once they’re published.
Not only are the top universities using Clue to conduct studies, but we also plan to use our massive data set for future research done by our own team of data scientists and biologists to improve your personal predictions, and make it easier for you to identify health insights and patterns of symptoms related to your cycle (which you will, always, have the option to opt out of, as I’ll explain more below).
2. Your data are your own.
You can export a backup of your complete data set (here is how) at any time. You tracked it all — it belongs to you!
Earning your trust is the foundation of all our work.
Our plans for earning money do not involve selling users’ personal data. We’re not selling nor sharing our users’ personal data with anyone. We never will.
Clue’s plans to earn money will be a business model that will make sense to you, and will be based on delivering value to Clue’s community of users. It takes time to get that right, and that is why we have raised money from investors to keep us going. We will need your help to figure out what we can build that you really want. (Please email us at email@example.com if you’re interested in being a beta tester for this!)
We carefully evaluate potential research partnerships to ensure that Clue’s users and the overall field of female health directly benefit from the findings. We will co-publish results, making them available to Clue users. You provided the data, and you should get insights from science back.
3. You have a choice about how your data are used.
Clue’s main goal is to provide features that benefit you directly. Data are only collected if it directly supports features made for you, or advances research for global female health. Please ask us if it’s ever unclear how your data are used.
We recommend and prefer that users create an account, because then they are actively contributing to Clue’s goal of revolutionizing female health. But it’s your decision whether you want to share your data or not, which is why you can use Clue without an account. All of Clue’s core features work without requiring you to create an account. If you don’t create an account, we have no identifying information about you. All of your cycle data are stored locally on your device, and we don’t have access to it — so if you delete Clue or lose your device, your data in Clue is also deleted or lost. You can save a copy of your data for yourself or send it to Clue’s support team to troubleshoot problems you’re having, but that is also your choice.
The only information we collect from everyone is aggregated and anonymous crash reports, and usage data (‘usage data’ includes data such as how many times the app is used in a given time period, but revealing nothing about what you tracked).
If you choose to create an account with Clue, we will use your anonymous cycle data to improve Clue’s features. As mentioned before, we may also use some of your anonymous data for academic and clinical research with universities. We may also share some of your anonymous data with companies on specific research projects related to improving female health and well-being.
I believe that anonymous data can help us uncover new insights on a global scale, but you should also have the right not to share your anonymous data. It’s your data and your decision.
4. Your data are safe.
Because earning your trust is the foundation of all our work, keeping that trust is essential to our business.
If you choose to create a Clue account, we work hard to keep your data safe.
Here are the safety guarantees that we offer:
We use SSL encryption for our data communication, and our server is verified.
We store your account information and your data points separately.
Our iOS app opts into OS-level data encryption (as long as you have a password set for iOS, your app database is encrypted).
Hopefully it’s clear why I believe data can transform the future of healthcare. When I think of the long term vision for Clue, I see so much more we can do, both in the developed world and in developing countries. Health data can be used to make it easier for doctors to diagnose medical conditions like PCOS, endometriosis or fertility problems. And there is a possibility to develop non-invasive, non-hormonal forms of birth control for millions — if not billions — of people around the world.
We are committed to making it happen. Every single data point you enter and share empowers you to be in charge of your health and moves us all closer to that global revolution in female health.
If you have any questions or feedback, I would love to talk to you more about this. It’s important to me. Ask me or comment anytime on Twitter or send us your questions.
Clue helps you understand your cycle so you can discover how to live a full and healthy life. #NowYouKnow
Article updated on March 11, 2021.