Period-tracking app Flo expands ‘anonymous mode’ : NPR

ByLance T. Lee

Jun 30, 2022

Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Three rubber stamps on a black background.

Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

Period-tracking app Flo has announced a new feature called “anonymous mode” that will allow users to remove their name, email address and technical IDs from their profile. Period trackers have come under intense scrutiny over privacy concerns following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Flo sent an email to app users on June 29 indicating that this feature will be available in the coming weeks. On social networks, many calls have been made to remove these applications. The company also teased the release of the new feature on Twitter on Friday.

In the email, signed by the data protection officer, the company said that once a user activates anonymous mode, an account would be stripped of their personal credentials. If an official request were to connect an account with a certain individual, Flo would no longer be able to do so.

“If Flo received an official request to identify a user by name or email, anonymous mode would prevent us from being able to connect data to an individual, meaning we could not fulfill the request,” said Susanne Schumacher, the data protection officer for Flo, said in an email to users.

The menstrual app also told users that they can request deletion of their information by emailing customer support.

Flo has amassed over 48 million active users and is one of the biggest health apps out there. In the past, the company’s use of user data has warranted a federal investigation. In 2019, Flo reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over concerns that the company had misled users with its privacy policy.

Experts say health privacy goes beyond health apps. Search histories and location data are other areas where technology information can be exploited, says Lydia XZ Brown, policy adviser at the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Privacy and Data Project.

The choice to keep rule trackers or to delete them depends on the individual situation. However, those in states where abortion is criminalized may want to take extra precautions, advises Andrea Ford, health researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

“If I lived in a state where abortion was actively criminalized, I wouldn’t use a period tracker — that’s for sure,” Ford previously told NPR.

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