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9 May 2022

Elizabeth Joh, Slate

Commentary: The potential overturn of Roe shows why we need more digital privacy protections

"The Potential Overturn of Roe Shows Why We Need More Digital Privacy Protections," 9 May 2022

...[T]he end of Roe v. Wade should be understood in the context of our vast and underregulated surveillance economy, and the reliance of law enforcement on it. It’s true that even if Roe is overturned, there will still be legal abortions available to those who live in or can travel to states where abortion remains legal.

... But for many, the digital breadcrumbs we leave will become potential evidence for criminal investigations. The likely end of Roe isn’t just about losing control over our bodies; it emphasizes how much control we’ve lost over our digital selves.

... We leave sensitive medical and location information behind in our apps, online purchases, browser searches, and public movements. That information fuels the virtually unregulated marketplace where data brokers collect massive amounts of personal information on millions of people.

... Some women seeking abortions will face privacy threats at home as well. Many in abusive relationships already have partners who monitor their digital activity. Digital stalking and harassment is a common problem. Turning abortion into a crime can make things worse.

... About half of all women who obtained an abortion in 2014 were below the poverty line, with another quarter not much above it. We also know that the poor live in a unique “matrix of vulnerabilities” when it comes to privacy, technology, and surveillance. Those in low-income communities of color are often acutely aware of the privacy risks they face online. But research suggests that they are also least able to find the tools and learn the strategies to protect their digital privacy.