Tech

How to protect your digital privacy if ‘Roe v. Wade’ collapsed


While it may be increasingly important for people in the United States to consciously consider what they post when it comes to their own or loved ones’ abortions, Hayley McMahon, a researcher Public health independently studies access to abortion, noting that the goal of this advice is not to chill words, but to keep people safe.

“I never want to tell someone that they shouldn’t talk about their experience or that they can’t talk about their experience, because there’s so much power in storytelling about abortion,” says McMahon. “But I think people need to have all the information and understanding of the risks, then they can make choices about what to say where.”

Know your rights

The researchers also stress that people in the US should know and feel safe about their rights when it comes to handling law enforcement agencies. If you are being questioned by the police, you can simply say, “I am exercising my right to remain silent and I would like to speak to an attorney.” Resources like Legal Helpline Repro can help connect you with specific legal advice. Alternatively, lock your devices with a strong, unique PIN number, lock them out and simply ask for a lawyer if the police try to force you unlock your device.

McMahon also added that in a very rare case complications with medical abortion, people should not feel pressured to disclose treatments to clinicians in emergency rooms or other healthcare settings. Just saying, “I think I’m having a miscarriage” is enough.

“People need to understand that it’s impossible to tell the difference between a spontaneous miscarriage and a medical abortion,” McMahon said. “Medical abortion simply causes a miscarriage. And of course, we often want people to disclose their health history to their doctor, but in this case, the treatment is the same, so there is no loss in not disclosing the information. there “.

Huge amount of data

Using apps, browsing the web, and using search engines are all activities that can reveal personal information, creating a huge challenge in controlling the flow of personal information as people research or search. abortion way. And often by the time someone wants to have an abortion, they’ve already created data that can reveal the state of their health. For example, a cycle-tracking app collects seemingly benign but clearly sensitive data in the context of a potential abortion crime. In a recent case, the Federal Trade Commission investigation and punishment fertility tracking app Flo Health to share users’ health data with marketing and analytics companies, including Facebook and Google. And researchers have also found numerous examples of health websites sharing personal data with third parties or conducting targeted advertising tracking without adequately informing users and in violate their privacy policy.

Use a search engine that doesn’t track potentially sensitive user data, like DuckDuckGo, and browser extensions that block web trackers, like EFF Privacy Badger, are all steps you can take to dramatically cut down on the amount of your browsing data going to tech companies. And consider similar options, if possible, for recording and storing fertility information, such as a notebook or paper calendar, where you record the details of your menstrual cycle.

One of the most dangerous and complex aspects of trying to control your personal data when you research or seek an abortion is the question of how to minimize the collection of your location data. . Always turn off location services for as many apps as possible—iOS and Android both make this relatively easy right now. And if you’re traveling for an abortion, you might consider leaving your phone at home or keeping it in your carry-on bag as much as possible.

“A lot of the activity generates data that doesn’t work,” said Andrea Downing, founder of the nonprofit Light Collective and a privacy and security researcher focused on patient populations and social media. you have joined previously appeared there. “You can delete the app from here on out, turn off location services, stop using fertility apps and those are all great steps. But it also makes sense if people can’t remember everything all the time. Patient groups are sensitive and vulnerable online, and we need to focus on protecting them.”

McMahon, an independent public health researcher, echoed this view, noting that any small steps a person can take to protect their data are positive and should be celebrated.

“I want to emphasize, it’s certainly not someone’s fault if they forget to do any of these things and then get criminally prosecuted,” she said. “People may feel like they’ve made a mistake if they look to someone else for help, but no! You did a normal human thing and the system is criminalizing you. “

While issues of digital privacy are extremely prominent for people who want abortions, they affect every marginalized and disenfranchised group. And as Light Collective’s Downing points out, they affect everyone in the end.

“Roe v. Wade is about privacy, it’s always been at the heart of that case,” she said. “So even if you’re not an abortionist, you need to think about how your rights go next.”



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