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Roe v. Wade reversal could hinder data privacy rights


Loss of data privacy rights

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, there will be ramifications for data protection in the U.S. as companies could likely receive requests to hand over data, said Michela Menting, digital security research director at global technology intelligence firm ABI Research.

Women’s health apps collect loads of user data. Often, free apps, or products from tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple and Meta, are offered in exchange for data collection, which those companies monetize and use to improve their products.

Companies holding data related to abortion searches could face legal uncertainty if abortion rights are no longer protected under Roe v. Wade. Apple has already faced requests from law enforcement for its data — in 2015, the FBI requested data extraction from locked iPhones of suspected criminals. Apple declined to assist, and the FBI dropped its request after finding a third party to help unlock the iPhones.

“A similar scenario is likely to unfold if abortion is criminalized,” Menting said. “Companies that have Apple’s clout and resources may well be able to fight these requests, but that will not be the majority of cases.”

Indeed, data is being recognized as a tool for law enforcement as evidenced through the use of reverse search warrants, which force tech companies to provide information to law enforcement to help identify individuals who could be suspects of a crime. Geofence warrants, another option, allow law enforcement to search databases for active mobile devices within a particular area.

Because of the data collected “When you think about someone who’s going through the admittedly terrible process of trying to decide whether or not to end a pregnancy, they’re going to use the tools that are available to them, like the internet,” Wicker said. “That will involve them in a search, so a keyword search would identify them, and then if they actually visit a clinic, a geofence search could identify them.”

The leaked Supreme Court opinion draft suggests that much, if not all, of the right or privacy granted to U.S. citizens Companies operating outside existing regulatory protections provided “For data privacy, it means that more challenges will be pushed to gain access to information that could help create repercussions under new restrictive laws,” he said.


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