The female health app Flo announced the release of its “Anonymous Mode” feature in an effort further to protect sensitive reproductive health information in a post-Roe America. Anonymous Mode allows any Flo user the option to access the app without name, email address, and technical identifiers from being associated with the health data in their Anonymous Mode account, marking the first female health app to take this level of precaution in terms of privacy and security. Flo has partnered with Cloudflare to integrate an Oblivious HTTP system, App Relay Gateway, which ensures that no single party processing user data for Anonymous Mode accounts has complete information on both who the user is and what they are trying to access.
Why does it matter?
Flo’s mission is to build a better future for female health and provide its 48M active users with evidence-based information including effective contraceptive methods and sexual health. Flo’s Anonymous Mode is based on the principle that users should feel empowered to access medically credible information to help them make informed decisions about their health without anxiety or concern. Flo has already made significant efforts to offer the highest standards of privacy and security to all users, including encryption of all data and passcode protection to reduce the risk that unauthorized users access the app on their personal device.
Flo’s Anonymous Mode introduces an even deeper layer of privacy for reproductive health data. By using Cloudflare’s App Relay, Flo takes user privacy to a deeper level than simply removing the connection between IP addresses and users’ health data. The new feature ensures its users privacy on various levels, from logged symptoms on the device through the data transfer over the network to the server side. This groundbreaking approach allows users to continue tracking their health and benefit from the information logged before, but with as much privacy as possible. In effect, the user leaves significantly reduced digital footprints when communicating with Flo.
Regardless of whether a user chooses to set up an Anonymous Mode account, all user data remains subject to Flo’s state of the art privacy and security protections. Flo does not sell identifiable user health data to any other company, but wanted to take this additional step to reassure users who are living in states affected by an abortion ban. It is important to note that once Anonymous Mode is activated, users will no longer be able to recover data when the device is lost, changed, or stolen and there may be limitations to using the app’s full personalization benefits. This is why Flo is offering Anonymous Mode as an option for concerned users instead of activating it by default.
The new Anonymous Mode is localized into 20 languages and can be accessed via the app’s settings in iOS (now available) and Android (to be released in October 2022). Users are able to enjoy all Flo’s health features, with limited exceptions.
On the record
“Women’s health information shouldn’t be a liability,” said Cath Everett, VP of Product and Content at Flo. “Every day, our users turn to Flo to gain personal insights about their bodies. Now, more than ever, women deserve to access, track, and gain insight into their personal health information without fearing government prosecution. We hope this milestone will set an example for the industry and inspire companies to raise the bar when it comes to privacy and security principles.”
“Recent legislation around women’s health has made Internet privacy a renewed concern with real-world consequences for many people,” said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO, Cloudflare. “Cloudflare’s App Relay system, based on a privacy-preserving standard championed by Cloudflare, will help Flo’s Anonymous Mode set a new expectation for how companies can protect their users’ health data.”
This update comes on the heels of Flo recently becoming the first period and ovulation tracker to receive the ISO 27001 certification, the internationally recognized standard for information security. Established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the certification affirms that Flo’s policies, processes, and procedures meet the world’s most rigorous standards and attests that Flo protects users’ data at the highest standard possible.