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FTC Reaches Settlement With Flo Health Over Fertility-Tracking App

01/13/2021 | 03:31pm EST

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 were ovulating.

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, commissioners said.

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 paramount."

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 us."

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 comment.

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 FTC said.

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 john.mckinnon@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-13-21 1530ET

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
ALPHABET INC. 0.45% 1892.56 Delayed Quote.7.98%
FACEBOOK INC 0.60% 274.5 Delayed Quote.0.49%
GROUPE FLO -2.33% 0.168 Real-time Quote.-1.18%
PARAMOUNT CORPORATION 1.23% 0.82 End-of-day quote.-0.61%
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Financials (USD)
Sales 2020 83 785 M - -
Net income 2020 27 084 M - -
Net cash 2020 60 362 M - -
P/E ratio 2020 29,2x
Yield 2020 -
Capitalization 782 B 782 B -
EV / Sales 2020 8,61x
EV / Sales 2021 6,76x
Nbr of Employees 56 653
Free-Float 83,8%
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Technical analysis trends FACEBOOK INC
Short TermMid-TermLong Term
Income Statement Evolution
Mean consensus BUY
Number of Analysts 51
Average target price 321,73 $
Last Close Price 274,50 $
Spread / Highest target 36,6%
Spread / Average Target 17,2%
Spread / Lowest Target -29,0%
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Mark Elliot Zuckerberg Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Sheryl Kara Sandberg Chief Operating Officer & Director
David M. Wehner Chief Financial Officer
Michael Todd Schroepfer Chief Technology Officer
Atish Banerjea Chief Information Officer
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