States with abortion bans may use your own data against you

With the annulment of Rowe v. Wade, the Supreme Court restored the time for women’s rights and, in addition, individual freedoms for all of us.

Reproductive privacy is at stake, and our current lack of digital privacy protections makes this problem even worse. Much of the data that companies collect about consumers can be used against people if state governments decide to prosecute those seeking or providing abortion.

One loophole allows law enforcement to simply purchase data from private data brokers.

Location data can show if a person has visited an abortion clinic. Payment details can show if someone has paid for a procedure. Message data can show if a person has spoken to friends about an abortion. Even something as harmless as grocery shopping data can be a risk. (Companies like Target have found that only analyzing a customer’s shopping history can help them predict when a customer is pregnant.)

Now that Rowe v. Wade has fallen, states that choose to criminalize abortion can begin buying and calling user data (including health and location data from periodic tracking apps) to prosecute people who have abortions. abortion or even help someone else in getting an abortion. In America after Roe, your cell phone now poses a risk to reproductive privacy.

Millions of people use health tracking applications, including those that track periods, fertility and pregnancy. Many people carry mobile devices with them for most of the day, often communicating on topics such as reproductive health through messaging apps, social media, and more. Our inability to control who accesses our digital data has already been a concern, but now the lack of digital privacy rights could soon lead to appalling results for people seeking or providing reproductive health care.

Politicians may not have the power to pass laws to protect abortion rights, but they can still address the issue of sensitive health data and who has access to it.

To protect both digital and medical privacy, including reproductive health, Congress must move to the U.S. Privacy and Data Protection Act, a bipartisan federal privacy bill introduced in the House in June. Among other things, the law will provide a cohesive national privacy framework, creating safeguards for data collection and use and holding companies to higher standards for data minimization and data security. Although the federal privacy law will not be specific to reproductive rights, many of these privacy principles will serve to better protect consumer data that might otherwise be used to prosecute abortion recipients.

Democrats need to do more than recite poems and sing song songs.

Congress must also consider the Fourth Amendment is not for sale, a bipartisan bill introduced by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., And Rand Paul, R-Ky., And others in April 2021. This bill will specifically stop intermediaries from data (companies that buy and sell consumer data from various sources) from the sale of personal information to Americans to law enforcement. While the legal process of searches and seizures by law enforcement must go through the protection of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, a loophole allows law enforcement to simply buy data from private data brokers. The fourth amendment to the Not for Sale Act will stop this.

And technology companies, especially those in health technology, need to build protection to protect their customers, including maintaining encryption and introducing data minimization principles and legal processes to respond to government data requests. For people living in states where even helping someone have an abortion can soon become a crime, the ability to use encrypted messages will be essential to protect sensitive calls.

Principles for minimizing data include simply collecting less data as well as storing it for a shorter period of time. Companies can also use more powerful technologies to improve privacy and ensure their cybersecurity so that data does not fall into the hands of the wrong people. Finally, companies need to review their policies and processes for responding to government data requests to understand how best to protect their customers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued a safety and privacy guide for people seeking or providing abortion care. Paying attention to privacy and security during protests is also important for anyone who joins what are likely to be huge crowds taking the issue to the streets. Review the privacy policies of the applications you use and make sure you know what data they collect about you. Help your friends and family use encrypted messaging tools like Signal.

Democrats need to do more than recite poems and sing song songs. This is not a time for a slow walk down the aisle. Americans deserve real representation from our elected employees. We don’t have time to hear Susan Collins, R-Maine, express her disappointment – once again – to the Supreme Court judges she helped cross the finish line, although she probably felt they were likely to contribute to a majority vote, which infringes on women’s rights. Centrist Democrats, such as Joe Manchin of DW.Va. , but he also in May 2022 voted explicitly against a bill that would legalize abortion.)

Congress must put a reproductive rights bill on the table and do so soon. Even if there is not enough momentum to pass it (as happened with the failed Women’s Health Act), submit the bill to the table so that representatives have to show their constituents whether they are brave enough to adhere to the principles you are. Americans must hear again in the minutes whether their representatives are ready to do their job and defend the interests of their people. And if they are not, let this be the fuel to ignite the by-elections. 2024 is not far away and democracy is at stake.

Although these are dark days for reproductive justice, remember that you still have the freedom to speak. Use your voice in any way. Donate to local abortion funds and run a campaign for candidates who will not sit idly by until our rights disappear. And vote, even when it seems hopeless. Especially when it seems hopeless. Democracy survives only if we all fight for its survival.

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