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Personal data at stake after the abolition of the right to abortion in the United States


Democrats and human rights groups have called on big tech platforms to better protect personal data, in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s Friday decision to revoke federal abortion rights.

The difference between today and the last time abortion was illegal in the United States is that we live in an era of unprecedented online surveillance.reacted on Twitter Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity of the NGO Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

If tech companies don’t want their data to turn into a mousetrap […], they must stop collecting this data now. Don’t sell them and don’t have them when the warrants arriveshe hammered.

Double-edged data collection

Google and Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger) track their users to be able to sell highly targeted and personalized advertising space to advertisers.

The information collected is anonymized, but remains accessible to authorities with a warrant. However, after the Supreme Court’s decision, many conservative states have already planned to ban voluntary terminations of pregnancy on their soil.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, continues to rake in huge profits, thanks to its position in the online advertising market.

Photo: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Some laws passed even before the Supreme Court ruling, such as in Texas in September, encourage ordinary citizens to sue women suspected of having abortions or those who helped them – even an Uber driver who would have taken to the clinic, for example.

Google’s technologies therefore risk becoming tools for extremists who want to suppress people seeking reproductive health carewrote 42 American elected officials in an open letter, addressed at the end of May to the leader of Google Sundar Pichai.

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Because Google keeps information about the geographic location of hundreds of millions of smartphone users that it regularly shares with government agenciesthey added.

Dumb tech giants

Google did not react to several requests from AFP on this subject. Meta and Apple did not respond either.

They kept quiet so far, notes Corynne McSherry, legal director of the NGO EFF.

They can and should do much more to protect the privacy of all users’ data.she pointed out. And if this disrupts their economic model, it’s time to change the model.

The association has published a list of recommendations for platforms: collect less data, encrypt it, do not share it with dubious companies or even do not force users to authenticate.

She also calls on them not to give in to any possible demands, such as a warrant that would require information on all smartphones near a family planning service.

Social networks are accused of using the personal data of their users for advertising purposes.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Jenny Kane

Protect your data

But even if the companies made an effort, that would not exempt the people concerned from taking measures themselves, recognizes the NGO.

She advises them to use less data-intensive search engines, such as DuckDuckGo, encrypted messaging services such as Signal or ProtonMail, and even virtual private networks (VPNs). These are popular digital tools for activists and journalists in authoritarian countries.

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On TikTok and Instagram, influencers are also calling for the removal of mobile applications for fertility or contraception.

Natural Cycles (NC) set out to create a completely anonymous experiencesaid Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, co-founder of this application, on Twitter on Friday.

not even Natural Cycles– cannot identify the user”,”text”:”The goal is to ensure that no one – not even Natural Cycles – can identify the user”}}”>The goal is to ensure that no one – not even Natural Cycles – can identify the usershe insisted.

But beyond companies and citizens, the responsibility to protect sensitive data should fall to the authorities, remind politicians.

The Capitol in Washington is home to the United States Congress, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

It’s not up to individuals to figure out how to delete their tracks, and which apps are safe or not. It’s up to us, the government, to do our jobsaid Friday Sara Jacobs, a Democratic parliamentarian in an interview with AFP.

In early June, she tabled a bill in Congress (My Body My Data Acyouwhich means in French my body my data) which would in particular oblige companies to collect only the health information strictly necessary to provide their service.

California and some US states have passed laws in recent years to better regulate the privacy of personal information online, but Congress can not agree on a federal law.

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