BUT draft Supreme Court decision leaked Speculation that the judges could overturn Roe v. Wade has raised new concerns about tech companies and the data they hold in their users.
If the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the US, states could make abortion illegal. Last year, Texas signed one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, banning them after six weeks of pregnancy. The law also allows anyone to sue any other person who performs a procedure or helps people. have an abortion.
Some experts fear that these who seeks abortions may be supplanted by tech companies to governments or law enforcement agencies by handing over the arrays of personal data they hold upon request.
“With unforeseen consequences here, we are really seeing a situation where technology companies’ very loose restrictions on data collection and privacy of user data can really put people who seek abortions or even want to learn more about abortions at risk,” said Mariana Ruiz Firma. executive director of The Kairos Fellowship, a non-profit organization that uses the pronoun “they”.
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Why data privacy matters when it comes to abortion rights
All users leave a digital or online footprint, whether you shop, sign up with an email address, surf the web, or use social media.
Security firm Kaspersky says digital footprints “relatively permanent, and once the data is public or even semi-public, as is the case with Facebook posts, the owner has little or no control over how others will use it.”
Ruiz Firmat said they are concerned that tech companies are “very casual about user data and privacy” and urges both companies to strengthen their data privacy policies and lawmakers to push for legislation that strengthens data security.
Groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation Fear laws that encourage citizens to find and report people who want abortions or help those who do may use online data such as social media posts.
“One set of concerns relates to law enforcement and government actors, who may have expensive and sophisticated surveillance technology at their disposal, as well as warrants and subpoenas,” the organization said in a statement.
At the same time, organizations e.g. Digital Defense Foundation created guidelines for people who want to have an abortion to help protect their privacy, such as secure browsing without being tracked, private messaging, and securing devices with strong passwords.
What about period tracking apps?
In response to the leaked draft opinion, several Twitter users stated: they removed their period tracker appsthat help women control their menstrual cycle Cycles, who are concerned that the data could be used against them if abortion is made illegal.
In a statement to USA TODAY, the popular period tracker app Clue said it had already received messages from concerned users in connection with the opinion leak.
“We fully understand this concern and want to assure you that your health data, especially any data you track on Clue for pregnancy, miscarriage or abortion, is kept private and secure,” the company said in a statement.
Clue also said that because it is based in Europe, it is subject to the stricter General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) “to apply specific protections to our users’ reproductive health data.”
In a statement emailed to USA TODAY, period tracking app Flo said it does not share health data with third parties.
What kind of data is shared by tech companies?
Major technology companies, including Apple, Google, Meta (parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), and Microsoft regularly receive requests for user data from law enforcement and government agencies.
Authorities can request various data from technology companies through subpoenas, warrants, or court orders.
For example, Apple’s latest July-December 2020 Transparency Report shows that law enforcement may request data such as serial numbers to help identify the owner of a device, credit card information, account information, and data from an account. including emails, photos, calendars, device backups and more.
According to Frequently Asked Questions on the Microsoft websiteauthorities can search for what they call “content” and “non-content” data. “Content” data includes items such as photos, emails, or documents. Non-content data includes email addresses and IP addresses that can identify a person’s device.
How to keep your data private
For those who want to maintain privacy in a broader sense while browsing the Internet, there are several steps that can be taken.
encrypted messages. Several apps, including Signal, Threema, and Telegram, offer end-to-end encryption, meaning that only the sender and recipient of messages can see the information sent.
Web browsers that do not track activity. DuckDuckGo and Brave allow users to search and navigate websites without targeted ads or cookies.
Be careful when posting on social media. It’s tempting to share bits and pieces of your life online through social media platforms, but you may be revealing more information than intended. “While there are social media platforms that provide some level of control over your data, people should just be careful about what they post for kids, family, or more private discussions,” said Kurt Baumgartner, principal investigator. Kaspersky Lab.
Turn off location sharing. iOS and Android devices provide users with the ability to turn off location data for various apps.
Set up two-factor authentication. Each time you sign in to a service with the feature enabled, it will also request a unique code sent to your smartphone as a text message or authenticator app.
Ruiz Firmat said the discussion of Roe v. Wade is an important reminder to pay close attention to how online data is protected and shared.
“This is an opportunity for users to learn a lot more about data privacy,” they said. “Read about it, learn about it before agreeing to all these terms of the platform itself.”
More Data Privacy Tips
- How to check if someone is spying on your computer
- 3 Ways Incognito Mode Can Help With Online Privacy
- 30-second privacy check that every Google and Facebook user must pass
- Why Facebook knows so much about you and how to stop it
Contributing: Jessica Guyn
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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