When it comes to reproductive rights, your digital trail matters more than you think.
For decades, law enforcement has weaponized fear and technology to track, arrest, surveil, and harass people of color and other marginalized communities. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, it’s critical that we stop geofence and keyword warrants, along with other kinds of tracking.
Intrusions of digital privacy will have dire implications for millions of Americans. Indiana lawmakers are signaling their plans to ban abortion during the special session beginning July 25. Laws that criminalize abortion could be used to surveil, penalize, and control Hoosiers, but disproportionately, Black and Brown Hoosiers. It’s chilling to think that seeking medical care may lead to being monitored by the police and government.
Apps you use every day collect and sell sensitive data to marketers. Currently, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are allowed to buy Americans’ personal information from apps and sell it to data brokers without any oversight. Corporations collect our information to sell to the highest bidder while an expanding surveillance apparatus and outdated privacy laws allow the government to monitor us like never before.
Despite a few media reports, most Americans are unaware that our government can obtain personal information — such as where we live, what doctor’s office we visited, or even when our last period was. Location data from phone apps is ripe for abuse. With Roe v. Wade overturned, this practice puts people’s lives at risk.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself. Some require additional work to keep your information safe. They are worth it, especially if you’re in a state that may ban abortion.
Use a more privacy-protective search engine, such as DuckDuckGo or Tor.
Websites like Google can use your location and search history to track you. You can turn off Google location and search history in your Google account settings.
Keep location services turned off on your phone.
Unless you need it for navigation apps, adjust your settings so you are not being tracked. For Apple devices, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. To change settings on Android devices, go to Settings > Location and select “off”.
Turn off biometric authentication on your phone.
This includes features like Touch or Face ID that scan your fingerprint or face to unlock your phone. Using a passcode is much safer.
Chat about plans on encrypted apps with disappearing texts, like Signal.
You should also limit who you talk to about getting an abortion. Some people have been reported to the police by friends, family or medical professionals for seeking an abortion.
Do not rely on health apps, like fertility trackers, to monitor your menstrual cycle.
These apps can sell your data to marketers to target you. Think about using a paper calendar or password protected spreadsheet to track your menstrual cycle.
This threat isn’t hypothetical, it’s already happening. Data brokers have already tracked people to and from abortion clinics, and sold their information to anyone with a credit card. No one should live in fear of constant surveillance when making decisions about their health.
Our right to privacy goes hand-in-hand with our right to abortion – and we won’t stop fighting for either.