Women's fertility health app Flo has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over reported sharing of sensitive user information with social media giant Facebook, despite Flo's claims that the company protects user privacy.
Information shared includes when users were ovulating, started their periods or intended to get pregnant. A 2019 Wall Street Journal article reported that Flo and some other apps that collect personal user information were sharing such information with Facebook, even if the user had no affiliation with Facebook. The journal noted that such apps allow users to set whether or not the apps share some information, such as location and contacts, but not information the users enter directly into the apps, such as period start dates.
The apps sometimes shared the information with Facebook without reporting the users' names. Instead, the companies shared user device information and other specifics that Facebook often can use to identify and target a user with tailored ads.
As part of the settlement with the FTC, Flo must tell users about its unauthorized sharing of data, obtain specific user permission to share such data, and have an independent party review its privacy practices.
A Flo statement on the settlement says the company is "committed to ensuring that the privacy of our users' personal health data is absolutely paramount" and that the "agreement with the FTC is not an admission of any wrongdoing."
"Rather, it is a settlement to avoid the time and expense of litigation and enables us to decisively put this matter behind us," the company said.
The company does not deny having shared private health information, but stipulates that it has not shared users' birthdays, addresses, or names.