April 2017 Latis Fisher, a Mississippi woman, was admitted to the hospital with a miscarriage. She was later charged with murder in the second degree. Prosecutors used her search history and her online purchase of the abortion drug misoprostol as evidence that she killed her fetus.
After Policy released Draft U.S. Supreme Court Majority Decision Repeal Rowe vs. Wade On Monday, activists, academics and lawyers who spoke to WIRED said they were concerned that cases like the Fisher case could become more common and that tech companies are not prepared for the choices they will face in a post-Roe America.
“What we know is what we’ve already seen [law enforcement] do in criminal court,” says Cynthia Conti Cook, a lawyer and technical officer at the Ford Foundation who has researched the use of surveillance technology to criminalize abortion. “We don’t have to put on tinfoil hats to speculate.”
Some major technology companies, including sales department and Amazonreacted to tightening restrictions on abortion by proposing support employees who want to relocateor compensate workers who travel out of state for medical care. But questions remain about whether they will share user data with law enforcement or continue to allow abortion-related content to remain on their platforms.
“They’re not even remotely prepared for what’s to come,” says Albert Fox Kahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Surveillance Project (STOP).
Most of the big tech companies, especially Google, Meta and Amazon, which rely on ad revenue, they say they don’t sell user data. But the fact that they collect and store so much information about their users makes them natural targets for law enforcement officers trying to file a case.
Earlier this week, Motherboard reported that she was able to buy location data for people who visited abortion clinics from a third-party data broker on the open market. That kind of information, according to Jolynn Dellinger, a Duke Law School professor who specializes in data ethics, can be used by law enforcement to establish probable cause — enough to provide a company like Google or Meta with a request for user data or a search. story.
“The easiest way for companies not to comply with legal data requests is not to store or store user data,” says Fox Kahn, who noted that Google has received increase the number of requests for geofencing orders that show all users in a specific location at a specific time. In 2020 25 percent of the requests Google received from US authorities were data geofence warrants.
While Cooper Quintin, a researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says companies are resisting subpoenas with data they deem illegal, last month’s report from Bloomberg found that Apple, Meta, Alphabet and Twitter were among a number of companies that responded to fraudulent legal requests for user data, which were then used to harass and extort women and underage users.
But it’s not just user locations and purchase histories that can pose legal dangers to tech giants and their users.
Robin Marty, author A New Handbook for Post-Row America and the chief operating officer of the West Alabama Women’s Center fears that social media platforms will respond to the criminalization of abortion in some states by more aggressively removing content related to the procedure.
“Is Facebook going to pass on the posts of those who are in the “Abort Yourself” group? I do not think so. At least not at the point where we are now,” says Marty. “Could they close it? Yes, I think they would easily do it under the idea of ”we stop illegal content”.
Fox Kahn says social media platforms could take a tougher approach to moderation to “save yourself the headache” of having to be more precise about what content might become illegal in some US states.
Conti Cook expects companies to react in the same way they did in 2018. FOSTA SESTA. A law making companies liable for third parties engaging in sex trafficking or prostitution on their platforms has prompted companies such as Meta and Twitter to introduce too wide content moderation policies and drove sex workers underground.
“This is an example of what happens when something is illegal in some states and not in others,” says Conti Cook. Companies tend to deal with [these issues] in a blanket, categorically, which does not always protect people on their platform.
WIRED reached out to Uber, Lyft, Meta, Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter to ask if the companies plan to cooperate with legal processes criminalizing access to abortion products and services in some states if Roe v. Wade is dropped. No one answered.
WIRED also asked Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter if abortion bans and criminalization would impact their site’s content moderation practices; None of the companies answered these questions.
AT Press release On April 29, Lyft said it would cover all legal fees “for any driver who is sued under Oklahoma SB 1503 and Texas SB 8 [legislation that allows those who assist people in obtaining abortion to be criminally charged or sued] while driving on our platform.” The company also said it is working with health partners to create a “safe state” program “to cover transportation costs to airports and clinics” for women in Texas and Oklahoma seeking out-of-state abortions. Uber has also publicly said it will offer legal support to drivers in states that criminalize aiding and abetting abortion.
But ultimately, says Conti Cook, the problem goes beyond the tech companies themselves.
“There will be no technical solution for this. Tech companies are not going to save us, and I don’t think we should ask them to save us,” says Conti Cook. “I don’t think tech companies will be the ones to protect pregnant women from having their data criminalized.”
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