In the days after Roe V. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, millions of women deleted their period tracking apps knowing that the government could now use reproductive health data against them in court. It might sound like Handmaid’s Tale-level paranoia, but there’re actual cases where a person’s app data and phone location has been used against them in court.
Now, period tracking and female health app Flo has a solution: A completely anonymous mode that separates a person’s name, email address, and IP address from information about their period and reproductive health.
Unlike other period apps that boast encrypted data and privacy measures, this app in anonymous mode makes it impossible for even Flo itself (or anyone else) to access or turn over your data, even if they wanted to.
The company knew it needed to act quickly in the days after the Roe decision was announced after women around the country raised concerns about period apps and privacy.
“They were worried about the implications of continuing to use period tracking apps like Flo,” Cath Everett, vice president of product at Flo, told The Verge. “So we knew that we had a user problem and a real issue that they wanted us to solve.”
Flo, which has 40 million regular users and 200 million downloads, has recently been in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission and settled privately over sharing user data with social media apps. The company says it learned a huge lesson from that experience. Now, they are in the forefront of all apps when it comes to data protection. The company even achieved ISO 27001 certification at the beginning of August, the internationally recognized standard for information security, becoming the first period app to do so.
Those who use anonymous mode will still get a personalized experience using the app, but there are a couple of key differences users should be aware of. For example, your data will be lost if your phone is broken or stolen. But that might be a fine price to pay for users who don’t want their cycles or fertility tracked.
“The beauty of Anonymous Mode is that it makes it possible for users to still have the personalized experience and the insight based on the data that they’re providing but, at the end of the day, that that data cannot be tracked back to them,” Everett says.
Flo hopes that other period apps will offer similar modes, but no other apps have announced plans.
“I think we should work together on some of these issues,” Roman Bugaev, chief technology officer, told The Verge. “It’s very hard to move the whole industry along.”