By Mousume Roy, APAC Reporter, HCL Technologies Ltd.

 

Following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe vs. Wade precedent that for decades guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, the US tech industry is concerned about the uncomfortable possibility of having to hand over pregnancy-related data to law enforcement.

More than 40 US Democratic lawmakers have written a letter to Google CEO, Sundar Pichai warning him about the risks posed by its data practices and urging changes. A total of eight US states have already banned abortion after the Supreme Court ruling gave them the freedom to do so by overturning Roe vs. Wade.

The technology sector’s representatives are concerned “that the police will obtain warrants for customers’ search history, geolocation and other information indicating plans to terminate a pregnancy”, as state laws start following the ruling.

The data collection practices of companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter have the potential to incriminate abortion-seekers for state laws that many in Silicon Valley oppose.

Typically, data giants readily hand over users’ personally identifiable data to law enforcement when requested.

 “The most harmful type of digital evidence is online search browsing history. I can’t even imagine the depth of information that my phone has on my life,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow at the Ford Foundation.

There’s likely going to be requests made to those tech companies for information related to search histories, to websites visited.

The digital risks are real

A mother of three, Latice Fischer, spent two years in jail because she had a miscarriage after her smartphone showed she had searched for abortion pills in her third trimester, and Mississippi authorities used her search as evidence when they charged her with second-degree murder.

And in another case, Purvi Patel's text messages to her friend and her online abortion pill purchase were both used as evidence against her when she was jailed in 2015 for alleged feticide. The Indiana resident had spent three years in prison before her conviction was overturned.