Millions of women across the world use apps to track their menstrual cycle, pregnancy and so on. A handy tool once you enter a variety of personal details, such apps will track changes to your body and provide relevant information and prompts. One such app is Flo Health - which has over a 100 million users.
"Flo is the first female health and well-being assistant for women of all ages. No matter your life stage or reproductive goal, personalize Flo to follow your cycle, fertility or pregnancy," exclaims the app's download page on the Google Play Store. And for quite some time now, countless women have sworn by the app. Indeed with a 4.8 rating out of 16,33,319 reviews on the play store, one can safely assume that the app is well liked.
But the service it provides has been severely undercut by recent allegations that Flo was making data entered by its users available to Facebook and other organisations. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the data it shared then made it possible targeted advertisements to reach users. And while this would be deeply problematic by itself, the fact that personal data including when users were ovulating was shared without their approval was many incensed. With menstruation, fertility and other topics pertaining to women's health continuing to remain taboo in many parts of the world, it is perhaps understandable why many consumers feel somewhat violated by the news.
But there has not been any major repercussions for the company thus far. According to the WSJ report, the company has entered into a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. This proposes that Flo Health will have to obtain independent review of its privacy practices and get users’ consent before sharing information. It would also require the company to notify consumers about the charges it faces (of sharing data without consent). The company however maintains that the settlement is not an admission of guilt.