The rule-tracking app Flo is developing a new feature called “anonymous mode” that will allow users to remove their name, email address and technical identifiers from their profile. Period trackers have come under intense scrutiny over privacy concerns following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
While the new feature was already planned, the Supreme Court ruling accelerated its development, according to a statement.
“Flo will always be an advocate for women’s health, and that includes providing our users with full control over their data,” Susanne Schumacher, data protection officer for Flo, said in a statement sent to NPR. “Flo will never share or sell user data, and only collects data when we have a legal basis to do so and when our users have given informed consent. All data we collect is fully encrypted, and that will never change.”
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 last 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 connecting data to an individual, which means we could not fulfill the request,” said Schumacher said in an email to users.
Enabling anonymous mode, however, may limit the customization features offered by the app, and users won’t be able to recover their data if a device is lost, stolen or modified, Flo said.
The menstrual app also told users that they can request deletion of their information by emailing customer support.
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.