SOPHIE BUSHWICK: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, so-called trigger laws already passed in 13 states could ban abortion in large parts of the country. Here’s how your smartphone could be used to prosecute you if you do decide to have an abortion in an area where it’s criminalized.
First of all, your phone is a major tracker of personal information.
It records a huge volume of data, your browsing information, location data, and payment history, that, taken together, can reveal your most intimate activities, such as how many times you go to the bathroom.
If a basic activity like reproductive healthcare becomes criminalized, experts say courts could then issue a warrant for your device, which would then reveal all of that personal information.
If this all sounds a little too dystopian, that’s because it is.
Even with Roe intact, digital footprints have been used against people seeking to terminate pregnancies.
Imagine a situation where a pregnant person is admitted to the hospital for treatment for a miscarriage.
That person’s phone could then be placed under surveillance under suspicion of having tried to induce that miscarriage.
Not only that; privacy experts warn that law enforcement could actually sidestep the need for a warrant by going directly to private companies.
So how would that work?
In case you didn’t know, data brokers have been collecting your personal information for years, and they sell that data for a fee.
Experts say there is actually precedent for law enforcement using data brokers to sidestep the Fourth Amendment.
By issuing a broad subpoena or buying information in bulk, law enforcement could crack down on a large number of people at once.
For example, they could use geofence or other location data, part of your digital footprint, to find everyone who had visited a clinic.
That information becomes even more revealing when it’s combined with health data.
That’s because experts warn these apps can actually identify if you’re pregnant before you know it yourself.
And yes, government officials in this country have actually charted people’s periods to determine if they were pregnant.
And know HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is not necessarily going to help you either.
It’s important to note that apps have no obligation to keep your data secure and private, and HIPAA does not really apply here.
Basically, your vulnerability and privacy is in the hands of the companies that develop these software apps.
That’s why some privacy advocates call for pressuring these companies directly to keep your data private and safe.There are still ways to protect yourself, but relying on the government or the tech industry to do so isn’t one of them.