The FTC comes down on yet another digital health company for third-party sharing of sensitive information


Hi, it’s Fortune’s tech fellow Andrea Guzman filling in for David. 

An app known as Premom pitches itself as an “all-in-one personalized ovulation calculator and period tracker” that offers monthly cycle reports and overviews of pregnancy timelines. It promises users “you don’t have to navigate your ovulation tracking journey alone.” 

And its hundreds of thousands of users really aren’t alone since, according to Federal Trade Commission charges and a settlement announced on Wednesday, the app allegedly shared their sensitive, personal information with third parties. The FTC says Prenom also disclosed users’ private health data to AppsFlyer and Google and failed to notify consumers of the unauthorized disclosures. 

“Premom broke its promises and compromised consumers’ privacy,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Levine went on to alert companies that the FTC “will not tolerate health privacy abuses.”

It’s the latest in a series of crackdowns on digital health companies. Earlier this year, the FTC proposed a ban on the GoodRx app sharing users’ health data for advertising. That was followed by BetterHelp’s March settlement with the FTC for allegedly sharing information about users’ mental health concerns with outside companies like Facebook and Snapchat. 

The Washington Post reports that both GoodRx and BetterHelp had said that the practices they’d carried out were common for the industry.

The responses reveal the cavalier attitude some companies have around their users’ highly sensitive health information. In Premom’s case, the data it shared with third parties dealt with information around users’ sexual and reproductive health, parental and pregnancy status, and other information about physical health conditions. 

The importance of safeguarding personal health data is gaining attention amid increasing restrictions on reproductive rights, including a court challenge on an abortion pill known as mifepristone, North Carolina’s law to ban abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and South Carolina’s push for a proposal to ban the procedure after six weeks. Digital data, including information from Facebook and Google as well as from online pharmacies, has been used to build cases against those seeking or providing abortions.

Easy Healthcare, the company behind the Premom app, denied wrongdoing. In a release, the company said the settlement went through so it could “avoid the time and expense of litigation,” and went on to boast about its new line of supplements and the upcoming launch of a prenatal multivitamin.

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Andrea Guzman

On privacy. In this Sunday’s edition of The Trust Factor newsletter, Fortune’s Eamon Barrett will discuss how, in the post-GDPR era, companies and brands can navigate data privacy concerns while leveraging first-party consumer data to provide better services to customers. Subscribe to The Trust Factor to get it delivered to your inbox.


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