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We care deeply about our users’ privacy, says tracking app Flo, amid data security concerns post Roe v Wade

Flo strengthens data protection in an effort to protect sensitive reproductive health information

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After launching its Anonymous Mode to better protect users’ data, period tracker Flo aims to prioritise privacy and security. We find out how from Flo’s VP of product and content, Cath Everett.

 

FemTech World: What does Flo’s new Anonymous Mode involve?

Cath Everett: The Anonymous Mode introduces an even deeper layer of privacy for reproductive health data by allowing users to access the most significant AI-based features without personal information (PI) being associated with their account.

It enables decoupling health data from user names, emails and technical identifiers through core parts of the data journey, from a logged symptom or periods on the device over the network to the server.  This groundbreaking approach allows users to continue tracking their health and benefit from the information logged before, now as privately as possible.

When we started to work on Anonymous Mode, we knew it was critical to include a credible third party. In partnership with Cloudflare, we leveraged their industry-leading feature, App Relay which introduces a trusted third party between each client and the server whose purpose is to forward encrypted requests and responses between client and server.

In effect, no single party processing user data in Anonymous Mode has complete information on both who the user is and what they are trying to access.

FTW: Why did it take so long for such an Anonymous Mode to be adopted?

CE: While the Anonymous Mode feature had already been underway, the development was accelerated in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the landmark case Roe v Wade.

After hearing concerns from users about how third parties might be able to access user health data from digital services, Flo immediately prioritised Anonymous Mode in an effort to provide our 257 million users the opportunity to access, track, and gain insight into their personal health information without fearing government prosecution.

Given that we are more than a mere period tracker, and instead a sophisticated health app, we had to make sure that we implemented Anonymous Mode across all features.

To ensure this level of privacy across all the major levels — client device, transport and server, — demanded a very sophisticated and detailed approach and the work of the team of over 50 talented professionals.

The development of Anonymous Mode was multi-layered and complex. However, we are very proud of how quickly we responded and hope that it will set a new standard for the industry.

FTW: Flo has been subjected to some allegations by the Wall Street Journal that found the app was sharing its users’ data with Facebook. How important is data transparency for you? 

CE: We understand that our users place trust in our technology to keep their sensitive information private, and the responsibility we have to provide a safe and secure platform for them to use.

We care deeply about our users’ privacy, which is why we do not share health data with any company but Flo. We will never make user data the source of our revenue because that would go against our core promise to our users.

Privacy and security are on top of our priorities, and we are working hard to share transparently our privacy and security measures.

In March, Flo completed an external, independent privacy audit which confirmed Flo’s own practices are consistent with its publicly stated privacy policy and in August it became the first period and ovulation tracker to achieve the ISO 27001 certification – an internationally recognised standard for information security.

Flo has also developed a dedicated Privacy Portal where we explain all things privacy while releasing Anonymous Mode, we have published a white paper where we dive deeper into technology behind the feature.

FTW: What would be your message for those worried about using tracking apps post Roe v Wade? 

CE: Flo will always stand up for the health of women and people who menstruate, and we will do everything in our power to protect the data and privacy of our users.

Multiple studies establish that women and people who menstruate who are denied abortions suffer significantly adverse health outcomes. Banning abortion increases the number of unsafe abortions and cases of maternal death and leads to a sixfold increase in the chance of developing a life-threatening condition. But also we are persuaded that evidence-based information on effective contraceptive methods and reproductive health plays a big role in preventing the need for an abortion and countering the growing volume of online misinformation.

That’s why when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, we used our technology to develop the Anonymous Mode.

FTW: What are your ambitions for Flo when it comes to improving data protection and the app’s existing features?

CE: We will do everything in our power to protect the data and privacy of our users, and will continue going above and beyond regular market practices on the topic.

To give you a few examples, Flo encrypts all data and engages in independent privacy audits.

We’re consistently focused on prioritising privacy and security within all of our product features, and there are a number of ideas in our pipeline, such as contributing to open-source projects to support privacy related cutting edge technologies across the whole industry.

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#FromBerlinWithSolidarity: period tracking app Clue on reproductive rights and data privacy

Femtech World sat down with Clue chief product officer, Rhiannon White, to find out more about the company’s latest campaign

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To mark the one-year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v Wade, the German period tracking app Clue has launched a powerful campaign.

From Berlin With Solidarity, a passion project by American Clue users and advertising creatives Amy Char, Heather Patterson, and Ashley Milhollin, aimed to bring attention to the very real fear of reproductive surveillance faced by women in US states where the loss of reproductive rights means people are afraid their health data could be used to prosecute them for seeking abortion.

The campaign, which featured bold billboards in the US and humorous posters in Berlin, was, in co-CEO Audrey Tsang’s words, directed at sparking a conversation about the importance of privacy rights for equal healthcare.

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The AI start-up on a mission to democratise IVF

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Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of AIVF
One in six people experience infertility globally, according to the World Health Organization. However, many couples are still unable to afford treatment. Daniella Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli fertility start-up AIVF, tells us how AI could democratise IVF and increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those struggling to conceive.

 

What is AIVF?

AIVF is an Israeli reproductive technology company transforming the fertility journey to be intelligent, accessible, and full of hope.

Based on scientific research and driven by real-world clinical use, AIVF developed a proprietary Fertility Operating System with automated embryo evaluation and deep learning algorithms to optimize clinical processes and improve patient outcomes.

Our solution, EMA, addresses two unmet needs in fertility. First, AI capabilities assist embryologists in their embryo evaluation, instantly identifying what the human eye cannot detect alone.

Second, with the integration of platforms, our single dashboard system streamlines all data in one place. From patient records to personalised embryo analytics, our platform connects the patient, lab, and clinic all in one place.

What is the story behind your company?

While writing my Ph.D. dissertation, it was suggested that my thesis could be a start-up. This field attracted me immediately. I believe being an embryologist is the most fantastic job in the world —using expertise to support individuals and families in bringing life into the world and homes.

While passionate about being an embryologist, I realised the more significant impact I could make is combining this with my previous experience using complex data to solve problems.

Knowing this field’s “ins and outs” made me realise there had been no significant progress and a lack of innovation for decades. I decided to jump right in, knowing I could make a difference for the better.

The move from embryologist to CEO of a start-up was a huge step, and I am constantly learning. My passion for helping bring children into the world remains the same. It’s my greater obligation to the world around me to create the next generation of IVF for clinicians, embryologists, and, most importantly, patients.

What makes your technology different?

The AIVF software algorithm was developed using hundreds of thousands of images and videos of embryos tagged with successful conception and leading to a normal pregnancy.

Currently, the programme can independently identify the embryos with the highest chances of developing into normal pregnancy.

The software AIVF developed identifies biological processes the human eye can’t detect. For example, the technology can spot mitochondrial ‘energy action’ directly linked to the embryo’s collapse or chances of implantation.

Unlike most deep learning algorithms, the AIVF platform identifies the patterns driving its actions and can explain its decisions.

It will mark, for example, that it has given a low score to a specific embryo due to disruptions or disorders found during its development, a different behavioural pattern at the cell division stage, or abnormal morphological appearance such as fractures.

How would your technology change the patient experience and fertility care more broadly?

On average, the IVF journey takes four years, seven cycles, and three miscarriages, costing an average of US$12,000 per IVF round.

By improving the embryologist’s capabilities in selecting the most viable embryo, there is potential for AI to help a patient conceive in one or two cycles. Our technology aims to minimise IVF’s financial and emotional costs by reducing the cost and time spent.

Additionally, our technology aims to add transparency to each patient’s IVF journey. While patients can access more information than ever, they make decisions based on a leaflet in the doctor’s office or a quick internet search.

Individuals need friendly and professional guidance to help them understand their journey’s complexities. Our integrated platform provides a window into the IVF lab and personalised analytics that help patients understand each step of the journey.

Where are you with the business now?

We are integrated with Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and Europe fertility clinics. So far, studies from our European clinics show that the platform has demonstrated a 70 per cent probability of success for embryos with a high EMA score.

The clinical studies also showed that EMA improved embryologists’ accuracy by 38 per cent and reduced the number of cycles to achieve pregnancy by 21.5 per cent on average. By improving embryologists’ accuracy, AIVF saves both time and money in the fertility journey.

What are your goals for this year?

IVF is one of the most important medical innovations in the last 50 years. Yet, the legacy technology used today in clinics can’t serve the 25 million women in the US who have limited or no access to fertility care.

At AIVF, we aim to use technology to make IVF efficient, accurate, and accessible to all who wish to grow their families.

Where do you see AIVF in five years?

Embryo evaluation using AI will democratise IVF by increasing access across underserved groups. More specifically, it will facilitate reduced costs by optimising our labour, laboratory performance, shorter time to a healthy, live birth of a singleton, and reduced failed cycles by not transferring embryos with a low chance of implantation (deselected embryos).

The promise of AI mitigated freedom for the computational embryologist is not just a new toolkit. It is the democratisation of high-quality IVF services. We call it IVF 3.0.

As we integrate AI technology into IVF practices and our work as embryologists and clinicians, the goals should remain the same: minimise costs and patient drop-out due to stress and financial fatigue while ensuring the highest quality patient care.

 

Daniella Gilboa is the co-founder and CEO of the AI technology start-up AIVF. As an IVF researcher, she is dedicated to advancing the science of using machine learning to optimise IVF processes. Gilboa is committed to driving the next generation of IVF technology and increase pregnancy success rates.

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The founder on a mission to help women find the perfect-fitting bra

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Valentina Biglia, founder and CEO at FindYourBra

When Valentina Biglia launched FindYourBra she had one mission in mind: to change the way women shop for bras. Driven by her grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, she set about creating a unique platform that would not only redefine women’s shopping experience but assist them with finding the perfect-fitting bra. She tells us all about it below.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I studied product design at the Politecnico of Turin, Italy. The idea of creating things from scratch has always fascinated me. Beauty and harmony are two characteristics that I seek and pursue.

I did a master’s degree in advanced interior design for commercial spaces at the IED in Barcelona. Products, fashion and the user experience in shopping are something I have always been passionate about, just as I am interested in philosophy, psychology and anthropology.

I studied gestalt, a branch of psychology, to better understand the behavioural patterns of human beings.

During my professional experience I had a parenthesis where I trained and worked as a bra fitter in a specialised lingerie shop in Barcelona. This experience changed my life and led me to founding FindYourBra.

What inspired you to create FindYourBra?

There are three main things that inspired me to create FindYourBra: firstly my personal experience with my body. I have never been satisfied with it, in particular with my breasts. I thought they were a “problem” until I found the right bra size.

On the other hand, I saw how finding the right bra size immediately changed the expression on the face of the people I was serving in the fitting rooms of the bra shop. At the same time I understood that the user experience was quite poor that any comment or look could create a trauma for them and that at that moment their self-esteem was at stake.

And, third reason, certainly not because of importance, is because of my grandmother. She has fought breast cancer twice, she has come out the winner again in November 2022.

She has been hiding her breasts every day for the last 30 years, fixing the breast asymmetry with socks stuffed with rice. She and other women like her inspire me every day to create a solution to help them get their lives back as soon as possible.

How would you describe your innovation in a few words?

The easiest, fastest and more intuitive way to buy bras online that suits you in total privacy and autonomy. A selection based on you, your measurements – taken with our patented measurement system – needs and preferences that changes as you changes.

No barriers, No measurements, No conversions, No size charts: just buy what fits to feel supported, comfortable and beautiful.

(more…)

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