Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Flo Ovulation & Period Tracker
Review date: Aug. 9, 2022
Old Aunt Flo, she's got her own app these days. Flo Ovulation & Period Tracker is quite popular, with over 230 million downloads of the app, according to Flo Health. This app tracks, logs, calculates, reminds, calendars, chats, and more to help you know when you're most likely to get pregnant so you can plan accordingly. Log all those moods, symptoms, sex drives, weight, water intake, energy levels, and activities to get "the most precise AI-based overview of your body’s patterns." Free to download, Flo offers premium features in their subscription services for around $40 - 50 a year.
So, how does Flo look from a privacy perspective? Well, unfortunately, they proved themselves rather untrustworthy when they got called out by the Federal Trade Commision in 2021 for the sharing sensitive health information of their users with advertising and marketing companies, including the likes of Facebook and Google, after promising not to. Yikes! Bad form Flo, bad form.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
There's good news and bad news when it comes to Flo. Let's start with the bad news, because that's probably why you're here. Flo has a spotty track record of protecting their user's very sensitive personal information. Which is very bad for a app that collects and tracks so much sensitive personal information.
Here's what happened. Back in 2019 the Wall Street Journal reported that Flo was sharing data with Facebook that included health data like when a person started their period. This prompted a review by the FTC who found that "despite express privacy claims, the company (Flo) took control of users’ sensitive fertility data and shared it with third parties." This resulted in the FTC and Flo agreeing to a settlement in 2021 that required Flo Health " to obtain the affirmative consent of users of the company’s fertility-tracking app before sharing their personal health information with others and to obtain an independent review of their privacy practices". So, the bad news is, Flo got caught misleading their users and sharing data they had promised they wouldn't (although the never admitted wrongdoing in the settlement). That's really bad. The good news is, after they got busted and settled with the FTC, they were forced to (hopefully) clean up their act and do better. So are they doing better? Well, again, hopefully.
Good news though. Flo recently announced the launch of an "Anonymous Mode," which is a free features that allows people to "use the service without any personally identifiable information, such as a name, email address, and technical identifier being associated with the account." We like that for sure! See, we told you there was both good and bad news when it comes to Flo.
So, what's the worst that could happen with Flo? Well, you could trust a company with a spotty track record to keep all that personal information you share with them private, safe, and secure. It's possible, although hopefully it doesn't happen, that they could leak or share data about your period or pregnancy that gets scooped up by people you don't want to have it and used against you. Which is really scary in the post-Roe vs Wade world we live in these days. Hopefully this never, ever happens. And hopefully all that data they collect and store on you to train up their AI algorithms is stored securely and never leaked. And hopefully Flo doesn't give your user data to law enforcement unless absolutely necessary, and then, hopefully they only give the bare minimum (which is what they say they will do, thank goodness). These are a lot of hopefullys. Maybe it's better to just not share so much personal info to begin with.
Tips to protect yourself
- Set up Anonymous Mode when using the app to protect your data
- Enable a 4-digit secure access code if you want additional security of your data from someone who might access your device
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data.
- Do not sign up with your Google account. Better just log in with email and password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images and videos)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device does not erase your personal data.
Can it snoop on me?
What can be used to sign up?
Google account is possible
What data does the company collect?
Name; Email address; Year of birth; Place of residence and associated location information including time zone and language
Weight; Body temperature; Menstrual cycle dates; Details of your pregnancy (if you select the pregnancy mode); Various symptoms related to your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and health; Other information about your health (including sexual activities), physical and mental well-being, and related activities, including personal life.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
The period app Flo got in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for “deceptive” practices around its data sharing. In June, 2021, the FTC announced that Flo Health settled with them over allegations that the company, after promises of privacy, shared health data of users using its fertility-tracking app with outside data analytics companies, including Facebook and Google.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
If you want to report a security incident related to the Services please contact us at [email protected]
Flo uses AI technology to make it easier for women with irregular periods to track their cycle and fertility if desired.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Your period cycles
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Congress to Investigate Data Brokers and Period Tracking AppsVice
With Roe overturned, period-tracking apps raise new worriesThe Washington Post
Fertility and Period Apps Can Be Weaponized in a Post-Roe WorldWired
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade: Should you delete your period-tracking app?TechCrunch
The data flows: How private are popular period tracker apps?Surfshark
FemTech: My Body, My Data, Their RulesEticas Foundation
Cycle-tracking apps stand behind their privacy policies as Roe teetersThe Verge
Fertility and Period Apps Can Be Weaponized in a Post-Roe WorldWired
Here’s What Period Tracking Apps Say They Do With Your DataVice
We asked 12 period-tracking apps about their post-Roe privacy policiesInput
Consumers swap period tracking apps in search of increased privacy following Roe v. Wade rulingTechCrunch
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