Democrats Are Increasingly Critical of US Tech Companies Over Abortion Data Privacy

In May, a number of Senate Democrats demanded chief executives at Google as well as Apple to stop applications from employing data mining practices.

Democratic lawmakers are increasing their inquiry on the role played by tech companies when it comes to collecting the personal information of those who are considering abortion in the midst of a regulatory process, as legislators, as well as the Biden administration wrestle with the consequences of the Supreme Court ruling last month which ended the constitutional protections of abortion.

In a fresh round of congressional letters in which the six House Democrats have asked highest management for Amazon’s cloud-based service network as well as the major cloud service provider Oracle regarding their handling of the location information of consumers’ cellphones and the measures they’ve taken or are planning to take to ensure privacy rights of those looking for information about abortion.

The majority of the conservative court to overturn Roe vs. Wade has led to the imposing of strict limits or complete bans regarding abortion in over 12 states. More than a dozen states are expected to impose additional restrictions. Privacy experts believe that it women are at risk because the information they provide may be used track pregnancy and be given to police or given to vigilantes. Location data, online searches, text messages and emails and even applications that track the period may be used in order to prosecute those who want to have an abortionor medical attention for miscarriages — and the people who help their clients, say experts.

Privacy advocates are keeping an eye on any new steps by law enforcement agencies of states that are affected — providing subpoenas, as an example on tech companies like Google, Apple, Bing Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp companies like Uber and Lyft and internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile.

“Data obtained and distributed by your company could be used by law enforcement officials and prosecutors in states that have aggressive restrictions on abortion,” the House Democrats headed by Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, stated in their letters. “Additionally states that permit vigilantes as well as private actors to take on abortion providers, the information could be used in the course of the judicial process.”

“When users use apps on their phones and click ‘yes’ to the “use geolocation data” pop-ups, they need not be concerned about the endless transfer of their personal data to individuals, advertisers and law enforcement. It shouldn’t be used to pursue or prosecute those seeking help with their reproductive health. Companies should take action now to ensure the rights of individuals.”

The letters were also sent to senior executives from Near Intelligence Holdings and Mobilewalla. Together with Oracle as well as Amazon Web Services’ Data Exchange These firms were described as top data brokers -businesses that collect, sell, or trade location information from mobile phones. The data can be used to track those who have been to abortion clinics or travelled outside of the state to seek abortion assistance.

Five other Democrats who are active in technology issues also signed the letters along together with Trahan representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Yvette Clarke of New York, Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Adam Schiff of California and Sean Casten of Illinois.

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The spokespersons for Amazon and Oracle haven’t responded to requests for comments by The Associated Press.

Additionally, this week Massachusetts 2 US Senators Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, sent letters to four businesses expressing concern that their software used to check student’s online communications could be used to penalize students seeking information on abortion as well as reproductive health care. They asked the companiesincluding Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian and Securly to determine if their software flags student’s internet searches for the term “abortion” and other terms related to abortion.

“It is extremely disturbing when your software flags phrases or actions that indicate students are looking for abortion, contraception or other related services, or school administrators, parents, and even law enforcement personnel were in the loop about this behavior,” Warren and Markey have written.

In general, the so-called “ed technology” firms claim that their monitoring is meant to stop the next school shooting or suicide of a student, and the scans are generally restricted to school email or other activity on school computers or networks on the internet, which are not accounts that can be used for private purposes.

This month the president Joe Biden, in the face of increasing pressure from other Democrats for him to act more assertive in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, signed an executive order to ensure the right to have abortion. The steps Biden announced are meant to avoid some possible punishments that women seeking abortion could face following the ruling, but the order is not able to restore access to abortions in the many states in which absolute bans or strict limits have been put in place.

Biden has also asked for the Federal Trade Commission to take measures to safeguard the privacy of people looking for information on reproductive health on the internet. on June 24, when that the high court issued its decision on the issue, four Democratic lawmakers requested the FTC to look into Apple as well as Google for accusing them of deceiving millions upon millions of mobile phone owners through the sale and collection of their personal information of all sorts to third-party companies.

In May, a number of Senate Democrats called on the chief executives of Google and Apple to block apps available on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store from using techniques to mine data which could aid in the targeting of people who seek abortion services.

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