FTC Reaches Settlement With Flo Health Over Fertility-Tracking App
By John D. McKinnon
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement
with Flo Health Inc., the developer of a widely used period and
fertility-tracking app, over allegations that it improperly shared
personal data with Facebook and others, including whether users
The data shared by Flo Health often allowed online ads to be
targeted to those users, despite Flo Health's promises that the
information would be kept private, The Wall Street Journal found in
a 2019 article.
The FTC's vote on the proposed settlement was 5-0, the agency
said Wednesday. The proposed settlement with the FTC, if it becomes
final following public comment, would require Flo Health to obtain
an independent review of its privacy practices and get users'
consent before sharing their health information, the agency said.
The company also must notify consumers of the FTC charges that it
shared consumers' personal information without their consent,
In a statement, a Flo spokesperson said the company cooperated
with the FTC, adding, "We are committed to ensuring that the
privacy of our users' personal health data is absolutely
The company emphasized that it didn't share users' names,
addresses or birthdays, and that its agreement with the FTC wasn't
an admission of wrongdoing but allowed it to "avoid the time and
expense of litigation and...decisively put this matter behind
The FTC alleged in its complaint that Flo promised to keep
users' data private, when it actually disclosed data to third
parties that provided marketing and analytics services to the app,
including Facebook's analytics division as well as Alphabet Inc.'s
Google analytics division and others.
Facebook and Google didn't immediately respond to requests for
Flo didn't stop disclosing this data until its practices were
revealed in the 2019 Wall Street Journal article, according to the
agency. The Journal's testing showed that Facebook software
collected data from many apps even if no Facebook account was used
to log in, and even if the end user wasn't a Facebook member.
The article prompted "hundreds" of complaints from users, the
The FTC suggested that more such cases could be coming.
"Apps that collect, use and share sensitive health information
can provide valuable services, but consumers need to be able to
trust these apps," said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau
of Consumer Protection. "We are looking closely at whether
developers of health apps are keeping their promises and handling
sensitive health information responsibly."
Write to John D. McKinnon at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 13, 2021 15:30 ET (20:30 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.