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11 Mai 2022

Rina Torchinsky, NPR

USA: Advocates concerned that data-collecting apps could be used to penalize those seeking abortions if Roe overturned; incl. co. comments

"How period tracking apps and data privacy fit into a post-Roe v. Wade climate," 10 May 2022

In the wake of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, privacy experts are increasingly concerned about how data collected from period-tracking apps, among other applications, could potentially be used to penalize anyone seeking or considering an abortion.

... The personal health data stored in these apps is among the most intimate types of information a person can share. ... The apps can show when their period stops and starts and when a pregnancy stops and starts.

... "We're very concerned in a lot of advocacy spaces about what happens when private corporations or the government can gain access to deeply sensitive data about people's lives and activities," says Lydia X. Z. Brown, a policy counsel with the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Especially when that data could put people in vulnerable and marginalized communities at risk for actual harm."

... Search histories could also be identifying, says Brown. Activist groups — regardless of what they're advocating for — might try to purchase a dataset that would show where people have been searching for information related to abortion.

... If abortion is criminalized, experts say period-tracking data could become a target for investigators.

... In a statement to NPR, the [period-tracking app Flo] said it "firmly believes women's health data should be held with the utmost privacy and care at all times, which is why we do not share health data with any third party."

... In a statement to NPR, period-tracking app Clue said "any data you track in Clue about pregnancies, pregnancy loss or abortion, is kept private and safe." As a European company, the company said it is obligated to apply "special protections" to reproductive health data, per European law.