The abortion abortion in the United States. The confidentiality of Google and Meta data is at stake

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From researching contraceptive methods on Google, to chatting with a pregnant friend on Facebook, to data on menstruation tracking apps, there are many digital effects that can keep women and their alleged “partners” from abortion in some states. of the United States.

Democratic members of Congress and human rights groups have called on major technology platforms to better protect personal data, following the US Supreme Court’s Friday decision to eliminate the federal right to abortion. “The difference between now and the last time abortion was illegal in the United States is that we live in an unprecedented era of online surveillance,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at NGO Electronic, wrote on Twitter. Frontier Foundation. “If tech companies don’t want their data to become a trap … they should stop collecting that data now. It shouldn’t be sold or provided when there are court orders,” she added. Google and Meta (the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) are closely monitoring their users so they can sell advertisers precisely targeted advertising space.

The information collected through the electronic platforms are not accompanied by the names of their owners, but remain within the reach of the authorities with a judicial measure. However, following the Supreme Court decision, many conservative states are planning to ban voluntary termination of pregnancy on their territory.

The silence of the technology companies

Some laws passed even before the Supreme Court ruling, such as in Texas in September, encourage individuals to sue women suspected of having abortions or those who helped them, even the taxi driver who allegedly took them to the clinic.

Thus, Google’s technologies could become “tools for extremists who want to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care,” 42 elected US officials wrote in an open letter in late May to Google chief Sundar Pichai. “Because Google retains the geographic location information of hundreds of millions of smartphone users, it regularly shares it with government agencies,” the officials added in the letter. Google did not respond to several requests from Agence France-Presse on this topic, as in the case of Meta and Apple. “They have been conservative” until now, says Corinne McSherry, legal director of the NGO Electronic Frontier Foundation. “They can and should do more to protect the privacy of all users’ data,” she says, “and if that undermines their business model, it’s time to change the model.” The organization has published a list of recommendations for platforms, including collecting less data, encrypting it, not sharing it with suspicious parties, and not coercing users into accepting it. He also urged these authorities not to give in to any requests, such as a note requesting information on all smartphones near a family planning center.

All are spies

But even if companies are committed, that doesn’t exempt those involved from acting alone, according to the NGO. The organization advises them to use search engines that collect less data, such as DuckDuckGo, encrypted messaging services such as Signal or ProtonMail, and even virtual private networks (VPNs) – digital tools popular with activists and journalists in authoritarian countries.

Additionally, videos went viral on Tik Tok and Instagram urging influencers to remove mobile apps related to fertility or contraception. Elena Berglund-Scherwitzl, co-founder of the menstrual tracking app, Natural Cycles, tweeted Friday that the app “set out to create a completely non-nominal experience.” “The goal is to ensure that no one, not even Natural Cycles, can identify you,” she stressed. But unlike companies and citizens, the responsibility for protecting sensitive data should lie with the authorities, the legislators recall. “It’s not up to people to figure out how to get rid of their traces, which apps are safe or not. It’s up to us, the government, to do our job,” Democratic Representative Sarah Jacobs said in an interview with AFP on Friday.

In early June, Jacobs presented a bill to Congress that would specifically require companies to collect only the health information they need to deliver their services.

California and some states in the United States have passed laws in recent years to better regulate the privacy of personal information on the Internet, but Congress is unable to agree a law in this direction at the federal level.

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