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With Roe in doubt, some fear tech surveillance of pregnancy

Abortion Digital Surveillance
Posted at 12:49 PM, May 18, 2022

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Companies that collect data from the digital clues people leave online often know their most sensitive health information - gleaned from web searches, health apps, and location trackers.

Privacy experts fear this digital trail could be used to surveil pregnancies if the U.S. Supreme Court allows abortions to be banned, as a leaked draft opinion suggests it will.

Ford Foundation technology fellow Cynthia Conti-Cook says the data gives outsiders a peek into someone's soul.

It's mostly used to target advertising, like baby products shown to pregnant women.

But the data could become evidence in a criminal case, something that worries abortion supporters.

For those who have suffered a miscarriage, the data collected could also be used to send insensitive ads about their would-be child's birthday.

Passed in 1996, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the health information of a patient from being disclosed without their consent.

But the data collected from third-party apps and tech companies are not protected by HIPAA.

The Associated Press reported that HIPAA can't protect you if a crisis pregnancy center, which anti-abortion groups run, has your health history.

This, in turn, means that data can be shared or sold to almost anyone.

The AP reported an investigation by the media company VICE and found that up until this month, for $160, clients' data found at more than 600 Planned Parenthood sites could be bought.

The data included people's addresses, income, and how much time they spent at the clinic.

Their names, however, were not included in the data collected.

But some states, including Massachusetts, Michigan, and California, have found ways to protect consumers' privacy.