Flo Settles FTC Charges of Misleading Users on Privacy

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The developer behind Flo, a period- and fertility-tracking app used by more than 100 million women, on Wednesday settled federal charges that it had misled users about its data-handling practices by sharing their intimate health details with Facebook and Google.

In its privacy policies, Flo had repeatedly promised users that it would protect private details about their menstruation cycles and fertility, and that the data would be used only to provide services to them, according to a complaint filed by The Federal Trade Commission.

Instead, federal regulators said, Flo shared sensitive health details on millions of users for years with numerous third parties — including Facebook’s and Google’s analytics units, as well as with two mobile analytics services, AppsFlyer and Flurry. The private data included information related to users’ periods, pregnancies and childbirths, the complaint said.

Moreover, Flo did not put limits on how Facebook, Google and other companies could use the women’s health information, federal regulators said, giving the third parties the ability to use the data for advertising and other purposes.

The proposed federal settlement prohibits the app’s developer, Flo Health, from misleading users about its data-handling practices. It also requires Flo to obtain users’ consent before sharing their health details and to obtain an independent review of its privacy practices.

In settling the case, Flo did not admit to any wrongdoing. In a statement, the company said it does not share information about users’ health without their permission. “We are committed to ensuring that the privacy of our users’ personal health data is absolutely paramount,” the statement added.