Democrats widen scrutiny of tech over abortion knowledge privateness

Rate this post


Democratic representatives are widening their scrutiny into the position of tech firms in amassing the non-public knowledge of people that could also be looking for an abortion, as lawmakers, regulators and the Biden administration grapple with the aftermath of the Supreme Court docket ruling final month ending the constitutional protections for abortion.

In a brand new volley of congressional letters, six Home Democrats have requested the highest executives of Amazon’s cloud-service community and main cloud supplier Oracle concerning the firms’ dealing with of customers’ location knowledge from cell phones, and what steps they’ve taken or deliberate to guard the privateness rights of people looking for info on abortion.

The choice by the courtroom’s conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade has resulted in strict limits or whole bans on abortion in additional than a dozen states. A few dozen extra states are set to impose further restrictions. Privateness consultants say that might make ladies susceptible as a result of their private knowledge may very well be used to surveil pregnancies and shared with police or bought to vigilantes. On-line searches, location knowledge, textual content messages and emails, and even apps that monitor intervals may very well be used to prosecute individuals who search an abortion — or medical take care of a miscarriage — in addition to those that help them, consultants say.

Privateness advocates are looking ahead to potential new strikes by legislation enforcement businesses in affected states — serving subpoenas, for instance, on tech firms akin to Google, Apple, Bing, Fb’s Messenger and WhatsApp, providers like Uber and Lyft, and web service suppliers together with AT&T, Verizon, T-Cell and Comcast.

“Knowledge collected and bought by your organization may very well be utilized by legislation enforcement and prosecutors in states with aggressive abortion restrictions,” the Home Democrats, led by Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, mentioned within the letters. “Moreover, in states that empower vigilantes and personal actors to sue abortion suppliers, this info can be utilized as a part of judicial proceedings.

“When customers use apps on their telephone and shortly faucet ‘sure’ on ‘use geolocation knowledge’ pop-ups, they shouldn’t be frightened concerning the countless sale of their knowledge to advertisers, people or legislation enforcement. And it most actually shouldn’t be used to search out, prosecute and jail a person looking for reproductive care. Corporations can take motion at this time to guard particular person rights.”

The letters additionally went to executives of Close to Intelligence Holdings and Mobilewalla. Together with Oracle and Amazon Net Companies’ Knowledge Trade, the businesses have been described as main knowledge brokers — companies that collect, promote or commerce location knowledge from cell phones, which may very well be used to trace individuals who have visited abortion clinics or have gone out of state looking for abortion providers.

5 different Democrats lively in tech points signed the letters with Trahan: Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Yvette Clarke of New York, Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Adam Schiff of California and Sean Casten of Illinois.

Spokespeople for Amazon and Oracle didn’t reply to requests for remark from The Related Press.

Additionally this week, Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators, Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, despatched letters to 4 firms elevating considerations that the software program they use to watch college students’ on-line communications may very well be used to punish college students who search details about abortion providers and reproductive well being care. They requested the businesses — Bark Applied sciences, Gaggle.web, GoGuardian and Securly — whether or not their software program flags college students’ on-line searches for abortion and different associated phrases.

“It could be deeply disturbing in case your software program flags phrases or exercise that recommend college students are trying to find contraception, abortion or different associated providers, and if faculty directors, dad and mom and even legislation enforcement have been probably knowledgeable of this exercise,” Warren and Markey wrote.

Usually, the so-called “ed tech” firms say the monitoring is meant to cease the subsequent faculty shooter or pupil suicide, and that the scans are principally restricted to high school e-mails or exercise on faculty computer systems or web networks, not non-public accounts.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden, below mounting stress from fellow Democrats to be extra forceful in response to the Supreme Court docket ruling, signed an government order to attempt to defend entry to abortion. The actions Biden outlined are meant to go off some potential penalties that girls looking for abortion might face after the ruling, however his order can’t restore entry to abortion within the greater than a dozen states the place strict limits or whole bans have gone into impact.

Biden additionally requested the Federal Commerce Fee to take steps to guard the privateness of these looking for details about reproductive care on-line. On June 24, the day the excessive courtroom introduced its resolution, 4 Democratic lawmakers requested the FTC to analyze Apple and Google for allegedly deceiving thousands and thousands of cell phone customers by enabling the gathering and sale of their private knowledge of all types to 3rd events.

In Could, a number of Senate Democrats urged the CEOs of Google and Apple to ban apps on the Google Play Retailer and the Apple App Retailer from utilizing data-mining practices that might facilitate the concentrating on of people looking for abortion providers.


Observe Marcy Gordon at


Supply hyperlink