Daily Management Review

US IT Industry Is Concerned About Providing Data To Jurisdictions That Prosecute Abortion


US IT Industry Is Concerned About Providing Data To Jurisdictions That Prosecute Abortion
Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Friday to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent, which for decades guaranteed a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, the technology industry is bracing for the uncomfortable possibility of having to hand over pregnancy-related data to law enforcement. more info
As state abortion restrictions take effect as a result of the verdict, technology industry leaders told Reuters that they are concerned that authorities will get warrants for customers' search history, geolocation, and other information indicating plans to terminate a pregnancy. Prosecutors might also obtain the same information through a subpoena.
The fear underscores how firms like Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc, and Amazon.com Inc's data collecting techniques have the ability to incriminate abortion-seekers for state laws that many in Silicon Valley reject.
"It is very likely that there’s going to be requests made to those tech companies for information related to search histories, to websites visited," said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow at the Ford Foundation.
Google did not respond. Amazon and Meta representatives did not immediately reply to calls for comment.
Technology has long been used to collect – and even leak – sensitive pregnancy-related information about consumers. Abortion opponents targeted persons entering reproductive health clinics with adverts proclaiming "Pregnancy Help" and "You Have Choices" in 2015, using so-called geofencing technology to identify smartphones in the area.
Recently, prosecutors in Mississippi charged a mother with second-degree murder after her smartphone revealed she had searched for abortion medicine in her third trimester, according to local media. "I can't really imagine the depth of information that my phone has on my life," Conti-Cook said.
While suspects may unintentionally hand over their phones and volunteer information that can be used to prosecute them, in the absence of strong leads or evidence, police may resort to tech corporations. In the case of United States v. Chatrie, for example, authorities got a warrant for Google location data that led them to Okello Chatrie in the course of an investigation into a bank robbery in 2019.
For the three years ending in June 2020, Amazon, for example, stated that it complied at least partially with 75% of search warrants, subpoenas, and other court orders requesting data on US users. It met 38 percent of the criteria. Amazon has stated that it must comply with "valid and binding orders," but its goal is to offer "the bare minimum" required by law.
"The difference between today and the last time abortion was outlawed in the United States is that we live in an era of extraordinary digital surveillance," said Eva Galperin, cybersecurity director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on Twitter on Friday.