How Flo Health Removes Copycat Apps and Prevents Impersonation
- Brand Protection
- Content Protection
Key Brand Protection Issues for Flo Health
For Flo Health, brand protection is an essential activity to prevent consumer confusion, safeguard reputation, and prevent loss of revenue.
“When we first started our online brand protection journey, we defined the types of infringements that we aimed to prevent. We documented the actions we could take to remove inappropriate content from websites and other online channels,” explains Nadya Hadanovich, Head of Legal Services at Flo Health group. “We were interested in removing anything that illegitimately used our brand or copied proprietary features of the Flo app. We wanted to find and remove any type of trademark infringement or copycat software.”
Unauthorized Apk Packages
Apk packages are bundles of files used for distribution and installation of mobile apps on the Android operating system. As Android is an open operating system, users can download files and software from third-party websites and app stores. Bad actors exploit this by uploading unauthorized apk packages to these channels, away from the heavily moderated Google Play Store.
Flo Health grapples with bad actors uploading unauthorized apk packages that contain the source code of the Flo app. Nadya states that because the apk packages are outdated versions of the app, large volumes of downloads could impact Flo Health’s brand reputation.
“Consumers downloading apk packages believe they are using an authorized version of the Flo app. However, users don’t receive the service they think they should be getting. We cannot provide them with the full service that is available to Android users that download the official app from the Google Store. This results in negative user feedback, with users complaining that their version of the app doesn’t work correctly and that new features are missing.”
“Secondly, apk packages cause issues with our internal tracking. The apps still link to the official version of our app, meaning they are valid on our servers and users display as if they are genuine. However, we do not see any actual data from them, so we are unable to see if they’re using the app appropriately to log their symptoms or patterns. It doesn’t reach our server side correctly.”
“Together with our engineering team, the legal team are focused on tackling unauthorized apk packages because they represent a high-risk threat to our brand.”
Screenshots of the official Flo app. Images courtesy of Flo Health.
Social Media Infringement and Impersonation
“We decided to expand our brand protection strategy to social media. We initially looked at preventing the distribution of advertising creatives that were complete reproductions of our own,” says Nadya.
“We then began to monitor more broadly for infringement on social media, considering that we came across instances where bad actors would create impersonation pages or accounts. For instance, Facebook groups are often set up that pretend to have an official connection with Flo Health or our services.”
“The motives behind impersonation include harvesting user data and selling accounts with high numbers of followers. For instance, bad actors try to populate an unrelated service to harvest user data to be shared on third-party websites. Other examples include impersonation pages on Instagram that invite their followers to join WhatsApp groups. These pages don’t sell anything but instead post content that purports to be from Flo Health. We believe that these pages are set up to build high numbers of followers, and then the page itself is sold on.”
“A trend that we are now seeing more and more is false association and appropriation of our brand and trademarks on official app stores,” explains Nadya. “Companies upload their own newly developed apps but pretend that they are connected with the already well-known Flo Health brand. Bad actors often use our logo as app icons or use the ‘Flo’ trademark in the name of the app or its description.”
Before Working with Corsearch
“Prior to working with Corsearch, we were very reactive. We were manually enforcing against the infringements that we were able to locate. In many cases this process was slow, and therefore we wouldn’t receive a quick response from the platform or intermediary,” shares Nadya.
“It was harder to locate the violators and to find the relevant contact details. Many of the websites that contain infringing content, especially those that host illegal application stores, do not list any valid contact details. So, it was difficult to communicate with the registrants or website owners.”
“It took a lot of time to locate those types of infringements. It would take almost a full working day to just go through all the Google search results alone. We had a huge table that listed contact details, URLs, what was enforced, and explanations of how we would proceed with each infringement. That’s why in terms of making the process more rapid, we decided that it would be appropriate to seek out technology that could automate everything.”
Working in Partnership with Corsearch
Using the ZERO platform to streamline brand protection
Although Flo Health had a brand protection strategy in place prior to working with Corsearch, Nadya says the ZERO platform has allowed her team to be much more effective.
“We had an online brand protection strategy in place but wanted to progress to the next stage with optimization and automation – Corsearch was the right choice,” states Nadya. “We really like the power of the ZERO platform. Its capabilities are really impressive and it’s great to work with.”
“We can now automate the processes of finding and prioritizing threats. It is very easy and straightforward to follow. I can simply go through all the allocated infringements in the Client Verify Folder and send them off for enforcement by the Corsearch team.”
Using Corsearch’s technology, it takes me less than 30 minutes per day to go through infringements found on apps, websites, and social media. This was just not achievable for us previously.
“Using the ZERO platform, it is much easier to find social media infringements and enforce them,” explains Nadya. “This is a big improvement. Without a technology solution, it was just impossible to locate all of those matches on social media. Previously, we were only able to enforce a small number of infringements proactively – the rest were rather reported to us by other teams in the business. So, we were waiting for other parties to approach us before we could act against infringers. We had little visibility of the scale of the problem.”
“Since we started using the ZERO brand protection platform, the overall number of online infringements has decreased. We’ve been very successful in taking down infringements on key channels.”
Locating Infringements Through Social Media Monitoring
“Through Corsearch’s technology, we are able to locate social media posts that contain links to websites that host unauthorized Flo apk packages or hacked versions of the Flo app,” says Nadya. “We’ve found links on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit – and other online forums.”
“This helps us locate and dig down to the packages themselves, which is really useful for us. We now have greater visibility over how unauthorized software is distributed, promoted, and how users find out that it exists.”
Nadya shares that Corsearch technology is able to flag YouTube guides that show users how to download and use hacked versions of the Flo app that have the premium subscription unlocked for free.
“Using ZERO, we are able to find and remove YouTube videos that contain instructions of how to get a hacked premium version of our app. This helps prevent further distribution of this software to end users.”
Leaning on Corsearch’s Industry Knowledge and Expertise
“Corsearch does not just provide the technology, but also provides additional expertise,” explains Nadya. “The analysts who work with us on brand protection activities are an equally importantly component. They work closely with our internal teams and are always on hand to provide additional assistance.”
“On more controversial cases, we take advantage of this expertise. For instance, if a platform hasn’t actioned an enforcement notice we’ll ask the analyst team to help us progress it manually or find a workaround to communicate with the infringing party appropriately. Corsearch harnesses its relationships with platforms to help us elevate issues, giving them higher priority with their contacts to get them removed quicker.”
Beyond Takedowns: Wider Business Uses of Brand Protection
Beyond fighting IP infringement, Nadya explains that there are wider applications of brand protection for Flo Health.
“Outside the legal team, Corsearch delivers additional value on social media,” states Nadya. “Our brand team can use ZERO to review all social media posts that mention Flo Health, regardless of whether they are sent directly to our official pages. This includes both related keywords and images. With this data, they can find new trends or patterns.”
“We also have the ability to more proactively monitor social media and gather feedback beyond Google Play or Apple App Store reviews – this would not usually be visible to our support team. Being able to locate and increase visibility of customer feedback is very important for the business.”
“There was a recent case where suddenly several users left negative reviews on our app that complained about some of our content’s wording. However, we were unable to identify exactly what content on the app that was causing controversy. Through Corsearch, I was able to find a Tweet shared by a user with more than 20,000 followers. They tweeted that Flo Health ‘posts inappropriate content’ and included a screenshot from our app. We were able to rectify the issue following this discovery.”
Nadya shares that, in some cases, Corsearch data has allowed her to make recommendations for changes and fixes to the official Flo app.
“I’m also able to find posts indicating that some of the features of the app are not working or not reachable for some of our users. I can then pass this on to our support team to follow up. This contributes to improving the app, fixing bugs, and eliminating any gaps in the user experience between different devices.”
Screenshot of the official Flo app. Image courtesy of Flo Health.
Looking to the Future
“The websites module gives an additional opportunity to locate infringing domains,” states Nadya. “We could then consider acquiring the rights to domains that are most similar to our brand name, which could benefit us. In the past we have pursued ad hoc cases of acquiring the rights to domain name registrations, but this was very limited because we had to manually search for domains. We might be interested in extending our domain activities and take advantage of Corsearch’s capabilities for domain enforcement.”
“We would definitely be interested in automating the advertisement enforcement activities in the future. Right now, we need to locate those infringements manually and then manually enforce them through various channels, including Facebook takedown notice forms.”
Corsearch provides a very, very sophisticated tool that greatly improves the effectiveness of your online brand protection strategy. Instead of manually finding and enforcing infringements, you can use Corsearch’s tool to automate the whole process – which is fantastic. And moreover, for those teams who do not have a brand protection program currently in place, they can rely on Corsearch’s expertise to help them formulate a strategy and quickly reduce the number of infringements.
Find out How Corsearch Can Protect Your Brand
Over 5,000 global brands and law firms trust Corsearch to support them in establishing and protecting their brands.
Find out how you can safeguard your customers, brand reputation, and online revenue with Corsearch’s advanced brand protection solutions.