What to know about digital privacy if abortions are restricted


As for how much information data brokers have about people, that’s a mystery. The data broker industry has been opaque for yearswhich makes it difficult to know which companies are selling customer data to whom – although many journalists and researchers have been trying to bring transparency to the industry for years.

How can I safely search online for information about birth control, Plan B and abortion pills?

Of course, many people will still have to search for ways to safely access abortions, even in a world where access is even more restricted. Digital surveillance experts have a few tips:

Use a private browser like Tor to keep online searches anonymous. Some experts also recommend turning to a Virtual Private Network – which redirects a user’s searches to different networks to make it harder to track them.

Download a browser extension to block ads, cookies and other data trackers that follow us online. Experts recommend services like Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy Badger to be sure of advertisers cannot track interest in news on pregnancy and other reproductive health issues.

Only discuss abortion and pregnancies through encrypted services like Signal or Proton Mail. As mentioned earlier, using encrypted services means tech companies are less likely to gain access to content in private one-to-one conversations. And while law enforcement has been known to work with third-party encryption services to read these messages, prosecutors and investigators are unlikely to do so for every investigation due to the length of those efforts.

Consider using phone numbers from Google Voice or another VoIP provider when making calls. Some advocates have raised concerns that phone service providers also have access to information about the phone numbers that call abortion clinics and hotlines and the content of our text messages. To combat this, digital surveillance experts tend to recommend using a voice over IP service, like Google Voice, so that call logs are saved only to a place where users can easily delete their call histories and their voicemail messages.

Even more tips: Many experts also pointed to the resources of the Digital Defense Fund, a group that works with abortion rights groups on ways to stay safe online, for more advice and information.

What is Congress doing to protect my online data in the meantime?

Lawmakers have introduced a few proposals to regulate the amount of information companies collect and store about their customers and the degree of law enforcement access, but many of those proposals are stalled in Congress. Senior members of the Senate Commerce Committee have been trying for years to unravel the details of a comprehensive federal privacy billwhich would focus on the data actually collected, while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tried to advance his Fourth Amendment is not for sale, which limits what data law enforcement can buy from data brokers and other outside sources.

But the real action is in the states: California, Virginia, Colorado and Utah have their own laws governing the collection of corporate data. Connecticut has just passed a law that will take effect next July. Vermont and California also have laws in place requiring data brokers to register with the state and be listed in a public directory in an effort to bring transparency to who is involved in these data sales. data to third parties. More states have also considered similar legislation.

Federal Trade Commission regulators are also beginning to understand the issue: Chairman Lina Khan told lawmakers on Wednesday that the issue is on the agency’s radar. “The fact that we have a whole under-economy on this incentive to endlessly collect this data – even if the app or service doesn’t require your location – I think that invites us to think seriously about the question of whether we need to set clear limits on this stuff,” Khan said during a May 18 parliamentary appropriations hearing.


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