Popular Period Tracker Says It's Got Users' Backs on Privacy

Flo launches 'Anonymous Mode' to scrub customer identifiers that can aid in abortion prosecutions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2022 8:11 AM CDT
Popular Period Tracker Says It's Got Users' Backs on Privacy
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/time99lek)

(Newser) – As women scramble to delete period and fertility tracker apps from their mobile devices in the wake of last week's Roe v. Wade decision, with fears that data from such apps could be tied to prosecutions over abortion, one of the largest health apps is assuring customers their information is safe. "You deserve the right to protect your data," menstrual app Flo, which has nearly 50 million active users, tweeted shortly after the ruling came down on Friday, hinting at an "Anonymous Mode" soon to come down the pike. NPR reports that on Wednesday, the company's data protection chief emailed customers that that mode is now here, a feature that will permit users to scrub their name, email, and any other identifiers within the app.

"If Flo were to receive an official request to identify a user by name or email ... we wouldn't be able to satisfy the request," Susanne Schumacher noted in her email. Even if they don't launch Anonymous Mode, customers can also email customer service and have their info similarly wiped. Meanwhile, a second tweet from Flo on Friday tried to alleviate worries that the company would sell personal data. So are concerns about such apps in a post-Roe world overhyped?

A study cited by MobiHealthNews last month found that the majority of popular women's health (aka "femtech") apps shared data with third parties, with three of them even collecting data without consent. Flo itself reached a settlement in recent years with the Federal Trade Commission over iffiness on its privacy policy. The company insists an audit after the settlement "did not identify any material gaps or weaknesses in Flo's privacy practices," per MobiHealthNews. Still, "if I lived in a state where abortion was actively being criminalized, I would not use a period tracker—that's for sure," Andrea Ford, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, recently told NPR. (Read more Roe v. Wade stories.)

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