The internet is tracking your period apps, your search history and your location. Companies are already selling that information to cops and extremists.
“I do think that we are facing a future in which the data collected by period-tracking apps could be used either as a dragnet to identify women who may have had an abortion or as evidence that a woman has had an abortion in a future in which seeking out or having an abortion is criminalized, which is something anti-abortion advocates have been eager to do.” – Eva Galperin (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Action: Call your legislators!
Sample email script to your representative: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep. [___] to cosponsor and pass H.R.6416 – Banning Surveillance Advertising Act of 2022, and H.R.2738 – The Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act to protect both our privacy and the integrity of our constitutional rights. Any bill passed should include restrictions on precision geo-fencing, not allowing companies to track people within a radius of 1850 feet, as in effect with the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”).
Sample email script to both senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Senator [___] to pass S. 1975, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion access for all Americans. In addition, I want the Senator to cosponsor and pass S.3520 – Banning Surveillance Advertising Act of 2022, and S.1265 – The Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act to protect both our privacy and the integrity of our constitutional rights. Any bill passed should include restrictions on precision demo-fencing, not allowing companies to track people within a radius of 1850 feet, as in effect with the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”).
- Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26): email, DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
- or Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24): email. DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
More on the bills above
H.R.6416/S.3520 – Banning Surveillance Advertising Act of 2022. The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act, which would curb ads targeted on the bases of “protected class information such as race, gender, and religion, and personal data.” Location data, though, would still be fair game.
H.R.2738/S.1265 – Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act would close the loophole that allows law enforcement to buy information from data brokers that they’d otherwise have to get with a warrant, stopping GOP states from going on warrant-free fishing expeditions through big databases and then hunting down anyone they think may have been seeking an abortion. Since Planned Parenthood and similar groups provide many different kinds of health screenings and services, there will be a lot of arrests. This bill has bipartisan and bicameral support.
- (Reps. Brownley and Carbajal are not yet cosponsors)
- (Sens. Feinstein and Padilla are not yet cosponsors)
The California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), which becomes fully effective January 1, 2023, is considered one the strongest privacy legislation in the U.S. Amongst its other features, it restricts precision geolocation programs, not allowing companies to track people within a radius of 1850 feet. This intentionally makes geo-fencing and location-based apps difficult to use, as companies can’t choose to send information to people standing right outside the storefront.
- This is not just an alarmist thought-experiment. Companies are already doing this.
- The information that women put in a period-tracking apps is not protected by HIPAA, the 1996 federal law that limits where healthcare providers can share patients’ health information.
- These companies sell your information. At least five popular period tracking apps — BabyCenter, Clue, Flo, My Calendar and Ovia —all shared user data with third parties for marketing and other purposes. Collectively, 10 popular apps were feeding data to at least 135 companies. Ovia was sharing users’ health data with their employers. Glow app users’ information was vulnerable to anyone who had their email address.
- Even if an app promises to de-identify your data, it can be combined with other information — such as your location, contacts or unique identifiers in your phone — and traced back to you, by anyone who pays for the information such as forced-birthers or law enforcement who obtains it with or without a warrent.
- Geo-fencing creates a virtual “fence” around a specified location that is tripped when a person crosses the “fence” with a phone or other mobile device. It therefore allows extremists and “crisis pregnancy centers” to accurate target those who visiting clinics offering abortion services. It is only illegal to target clinic patients in Massachusetts.
- Law enforcement already can easily duplicate all data on a user’s phone into one convenient, searchable, thousands-of-pages-long file. Such data has already led to arrests.
- Forced-birther laws tracking women are already here. A bill in Oklahoma’s legislature would establish a statewide government database of all people seeking abortions. Each person would be assigned a “unique identifying number” and connected with a “pre-abortion resource” assistant who is legally barred from referring actual abortion services.
- (MotherJones) Meet Abortion Bans’ New Best Friend—Your Phone
- (TechCrunch) As Roe v. Wade reversal looms, should you delete your period-tracking app? Knowing which apps track you is only half of the battle
- (Vox) What police could find out about your illegal abortion. The pre-Roe world didn’t have data privacy laws. The post-Roe world needs them.
- (CA Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog) Geofencing warrants
- (TheMarkup) Thousands of Geofence Warrants Appear to Be Missing from a California DOJ Transparency Database
- (natlawreview.com) How Will the “New” New California Privacy Law Affect Your Business?
- (vice.com) Data Broker SafeGraph Stops Selling Location Data of People Who Visit Planned Parenthood – The move comes after Motherboard found it was possible to buy data showing how many people visited Planned Parenthood locations, where they came from, and where they went afterwards.
- (iapp.org) Privacy bills in the 117th Congress