A leaked memo shows the Supreme Court Plan to overturn landmark Roe v Wade Decide. If this happens, The so-called trigger law Other laws, already passed in 13 states, would immediately ban abortion in much of the country. One of the ways a court can find a plaintiff is by using the data our phones generate every day.
A smartphone can be a huge repository of personal information. Most people always carry one with them, automatically recording their daily activities through internet searches, browsing, location data, payment history, phone records, chat apps, contact lists, and calendars. “Your phone knows you better than you. You have data on your phone that shows how many times you go to the bathroom in a day, these very private things,” said Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit digital rights organization Fight for the Future. Say. “If, as a result of these draconian laws, basic activities like seeking or providing reproductive health care are criminalized in a way that allows law enforcement to obtain actual authorization of your device, it could reveal extremely sensitive information — not just about that person, It’s about everyone they communicate with.”
even though roe Intact, digital footprints of this type have been used to prosecute those trying to terminate a pregnancy. In 2017, a woman in Mississippi suffered a miscarriage at home.grand jury later Charge her with second-degree murder, based in part on her online search history — documenting how she had looked up how it led to a miscarriage. (The charges against the woman were eventually dropped.)
Such information can be extracted directly from the phone. But doing so legally requires a judge to issue an arrest warrant. To do this, law enforcement officers must demonstrate that they have reasonable grounds to believe that the search is warranted. This requirement prevents frivolous searches — but can also be circumvented with relative ease. In particular, privacy activists have warned that law enforcement agencies can circumvent the need for warrants by obtaining much of the same information from private companies. “A treasure trove of little-known information about Americans is held by data brokers, who sell digital files about people to anyone willing to pay,” explained Riana Pfefferkorn, a research scholar at Stanford Internet Observatory. “Law enforcement agencies Data brokers have been used to end Fourth Amendment warrant requirements. They are just buying information they need authorization to get.”
They can also access the data by presenting a subpoena to the tech company, which is easier to obtain than a search warrant because it only requires “reasonable suspicion” of the need for a search, Greer explained, rather than a higher standard of probable cause. “We’ve also seen law enforcement in past issues [subpoenas for] Incredibly broad demands,” Greer said. “For example, asking search engines to hand over the IP addresses of all people who have searched for a particular term, or asking cell phone companies to hand over so-called ‘geofencing data’, [which reveal] All phones in a certain area at a certain time. “
By gaining access to this data in bulk — whether through purchases or subpoenas — agencies can hit large numbers of people at once. Geofencing and other location data can easily reveal who has been to clinics offering abortion care. Greer’s concerns are not just theoretical: viceThe online tech news outlet Motherboard recently reported on two cases of location data brokers Sale or share freely Information about people who have visited abortion clinics, including where they traveled before and after those visits.Although both companies claim they have stop selling or share Following news coverage, other data brokers are free to continue this type of tracking.
Such information can be even more enlightening when combined with health data.For this reason, some privacy advocates Track application during warning, many people use it to maintain their menstrual cycle and track their fertility. When the software “tracks your period and your period is normal, then your period is late, [the app] Pregnancy can definitely be identified before people realize it,” said Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. In fact, government officials have identified a person’s pregnancy status. For example, in 2019, a Missouri officials said his office created a spreadsheet, period to track patients Who has ever visited the only Planned Parenthood facility in the state. In this case, the government did not get the information from the app, but the incident suggests that authorities may be interested in such data.
While policies vary depending on the apps involved, experts say companies that produce menstrual cycle programs are generally not obligated to keep this data private. “If it’s not part of the health system, I think most of it [apps] No, I don’t think there is necessarily [privacy] requirements,” Grossman said. Although these data are related to an individual’s health, they are not protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which protects health information from being shared without a patient’s consent.” Everyone needs to understand that HIPAA, the federal health privacy law, is not the giant magic shield that many people seem to think,” warns Pfefferkorn. “HIPAA is actually quite limited in terms of which entities it applies to — and your period tracking app Program is not one of them. In addition, HIPAA has exceptions to law enforcement and judicial processes. Therefore, even if HIPAA covers entities (such as abortion clinics), the law does not provide absolute protection against disclosure of your reproductive health care records to the police. “
“This exposes the entire tech industry’s business model of essentially collecting as much data as possible with the hope of turning it into profit, which has created a huge attack surface for monitoring and fighting people’s basic rights,” Greer said. “As we start to think about how to criminalize activities that are currently perfectly legal in the near future, it reveals how even seemingly mundane or innocuous data collection or storage can put people at risk.” The lawmakers have introduced privacy legislation, such as Fourth Amendment Prohibition of Sale Act, which would prevent law enforcement from circumventing the need for a search warrant by buying information from data brokers. But this has not yet passed into law.
Rather than relying on governments to protect privacy, some advocates argue, it is more effective to press companies directly. “I think our best bet for systemic change now is to call on the companies that are collecting this data to stop collecting it and stop sharing it, and to make a plan for what’s going to happen when the government asks,” said the nonprofit Electronic Arts, which promotes digital rights. Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Frontier Foundation.
Rather than waiting for government or tech industry action, individuals can also take steps now to preserve their privacy. As a first line of defense, Greer recommends locking accounts securely: Protect your phone and computer with a strong password, use a password manager for other programs, and turn on two-factor authentication. “These three steps will protect you from most non-law enforcement attacks,” Greer said.For those concerned about law enforcement, groups like the Digital Defense Fund have released Safety Guidelines on how to further hide your information. Potential steps include the use of encrypted chat apps, privacy-focused browsers such as Tor or Brave, and virtual private networks to sift through a person’s online communications and activities. Additionally, disabling location tracking or leaving your cell phone at home when visiting a clinic can protect information about an individual’s whereabouts.
These measures now seem unnecessary, but Galperin warns that without protection Roe v Wade, it makes sense to worry that our most personal information will be weaponized against us. “I’ve spent more than a decade working with journalists and activists, people in vulnerable groups around the world, especially in authoritarian regimes,” she said. “The most important lesson I have learned from this work is that when rights are restricted, it happens quickly. When that happens, you need to have all your privacy and security plans in place because if you are in It’s too late to make these changes after rights have been taken away.”