Your Boss Might Be Trying to Track if You’re Going Off Birth Control and Getting Pregnant

Many millennials would love to look into a crystal ball and see what the future holds for them.

And apparently so would our employers, though not about your forthcoming job prospects and career progression as you might think. According to the Wall Street Journal, our bosses may be trying to predict when we’re going to get pregnant.

A story this week reported how bosses may be sent alerts that their employees have stopped using birth control and potentially planning a pregnancy. It’s is fabulous news for the young families, but if your company is paying for your healthcare plan, chances are they’re just seeing dollar signs.

The original article discussed how companies like Walmart may be using outside firms such as Castlight Healthcare Inc. to help them reduce their healthcare costs. In order to do so, information about employees that is usually confidential will be collected to calculate people’s risks of health conditions. They would then be sent a cue to push them towards healthier life choices that lowered their (and the company’s) long term costs.

The part that sent Twitter and the internet into a frenzy was when the article talked about a Castlight product that scans insurance claims to find out if women have stopped using birth control or made fertility-related searches on their healthcare app.

“That data is matched with the woman’s age and, if applicable, the ages of her children to compute the likelihood of an impending pregnancy,” says Jonathan Rende, the company’s chief research and development officer.

Subsequently she would receive messages through the app with tips for prenatal care, and if this was irrelevant to her – e.g. the algorithm guessed her intentions wrongly – she could opt out of similar messages in the future.

This is incredibly worrying for many reasons. Deciding to start a family is a complex and private affair for women, and just because pregnancy XX shouldn’t exist, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. It’s also very silly because ceasing to use birth control does not automatically mean that we are preparing to get pregnant (thank you very much, CDC).

Vox says that it’s not all as terrifying as it sounds. The information our superiors would be sent wouldn’t identify individual employees and if anyone was being alerted it’d be us – not the big boss-man/lady.

The data they would see would be aggregated, and privacy laws would generally not allow for bosses looking at their workers’ health information, so the point could well be moot.

But this culture of data mining is pretty creepy, nonetheless. It’s a bit like when Facebook advertises dating websites when it notices you are single or IVF treatment (yes, really) when it presumably notices the absence of incessant baby posts on your wall.

So if you find sneaking a tampon to your office washroom embarrassing when it’s that time of the month, be prepared for more of your personal information to be divulged on your behalf.

Or just steer clear of, um, ALL corporate healthcare apps like the plague – which coincidentally would probably be cheaper than maternity leave.