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Should you worry about data from your period-tracking app being used against you?

Hannah Norman and Victoria Knight, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Some states, such as California and Virginia, have state-level laws that give users ownership over their information and whether it is sold to third parties.

Data brokers trade in other types of information, such as location-tracking data for people who visited Planned Parenthood, which potentially could be purchased by law enforcement or government officials. Earlier this month, SafeGraph halted selling cellphone-tracking data mapping the movements of people visiting Planned Parenthood, how long they stayed, and where they went afterward, after Vice reported buying a week’s worth of data for $160.

Also of concern is a company’s level of data security, and how susceptible it is to a breach. “Hacking is criminal, there’s no question about it,” Savage said. “But once it’s hacked, information can be released.”

Could This Data Be Used in a Criminal Prosecution?

The short answer is yes.

“It’s almost surreal that in some states using a period app could get you into trouble,” said McGraw. “But if an abortion is a crime, it could be accessed in building a case against you.”

 

This depends on where you live, but there are no federal protections against that happening from a privacy standpoint, she added. Last year, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which would prohibit data brokers from selling personal information to law enforcement or intelligence agencies without court oversight. But the legislation has yet to make it to a vote.

Wyden told KHN he was “absolutely” worried about the chance that people who seek an abortion could be incriminated by their phone data.

“It is really an ominous prospect of women having their personal data weaponized against them,” said Wyden. “These big data outfits,” he said, “gotta decide — are they going to protect the privacy of women who do business with them? Or are they basically going to sell out to the highest bidder?”

In the absence of a federal law, if law enforcement does get a court-ordered subpoena, it can be difficult for a company to resist handing over data related to a specific case.

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©2022 Kaiser Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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