In a divided country, the concerns of the two camps are very different. On the one hand, the Tiktok app has found itself in crossfire in the US. Republican senators are putting pressure on Beijing-based Bytedance as the Chinese state could possibly use its popular video app to extract private data from US users.
On the other hand, many women fear their own state and surveillance apparatus rather than China. Because where abortion was legal a moment ago, since the Supreme Court ruling it has become a crime in many conservative states – no matter how desperate a pregnant woman is. It also means that the handling of personal data on smartphones will be put to the test again.
Because phones are considered a “window to the soul”: with the right assessment software, outsiders can not only reconstruct whether a woman was pregnant, but also when the pregnancy ended. That is why many women delete their cycle apps, which record data on ovulation, sex – whether they are unsecured or not – or missed periods. Their fear: Police in a state that criminalizes abortion may be evaluating data from providers of such apps. The prosecutor could then use this data to argue in court that the woman was pregnant up to a point. In this way, researchers do not have to make lowly promising attempts to obtain specially protected data from clinics or doctors.
Stories of distinctive circular applications are spreading around the world. But perhaps the focus on these apps is wrong. The problem is much bigger, writes Cory Doctorow, one of the most prominent digital privacy activists at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on his blog. He admits that many cycling applications are a total data protection disaster. Nevertheless, women should not be under the illusion that removing such an application would keep them safe.
The total catastrophe is a fundamental disaster, with virtually all apps distributed through Google and Facebook app stores – from those for distance learning to those that remind Muslims to pray. The entire tech sector is spying on its users. This is particularly evident in the location data that records where the device has been, and thus the user. Investigators were able to obtain this data from companies and find out who attended the abortion clinic. Or they go to a data dealer who collects and sells data from the app.
Catholic newsletter site detected a priest based on location data
So maybe a reporter’s website? motherboard purchased a dataset containing visits to 600 Planned Parenthood sites from data provider Safegraph for $ 160. The non-profit organization helps pregnant women and also offers abortions. Individual visitors are relatively easy to identify as the “anonymization” of the data does not usually deserve this description. Safegraph then announced that it would no longer sell data on abortion clinics.
Last year has shown that religious law does not shy away from using location data outside. Catholic Newsletter Service pillar used the data to show that a senior priest of the United States Conference of Bishops visited gay bars and used the Grindr dating app. He resigned.
Google reacted over the weekend and sided with women: location data containing information about visits to medical facilities will be automatically deleted. This also applies to abortion clinics. In the fight against Republican states, President Joe Biden is now working to better protect such data and has asked the Federal Communications Authority of the FTC to take appropriate steps.
Other experts point out that it is not only about location data. In the past, in accusations against mothers of allegedly illegal abortions, police primarily assessed search queries and text messages from accused women that were stored on their computers and mobile phones. They should provide evidence of women’s considerations about possible abortions.
IT researcher Maggie Delano argues that it is worth switching to one of the few data-saving applications. But the biggest informants who have brought women to trial after an abortion so far have not been the algorithms. But hospital staff, friends and relatives who would have called the police.