Why removing your menstrual tracker doesn’t protect your privacy

In May 1972, the Chicago Police Department attacked a high-rise condominium where a group called Jane Collective was providing an abortion. Abortion was a criminal offense in Illinois, the year before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision gave women constitutional rights to decide whether to give birth.

Seven women were arrested, including two who had the patient’s name and address on an index card in their wallet. According to history written by members of the group, “Jane’s storyThe women smashed the cards in a police van on their way to the station, broke them into pieces, and ate some of them. They didn’t know what the police would do with the information, so they removed it.

Fifty years later, the Supreme Court overturned Roe’s decision. Abortion is banned or severely restricted in many countries. But now, thanks to the digital trails left in the modern tech era, it will be much more difficult to hide guilty data about the decision to end pregnancy.

When the draft court ruling was first leaked, and when the ruling became official last week, people focused on these digital trails, especially the information that millions of women share on the period tracker app about their menstrual cycle. I matched. The kneeling advice was simple and direct. Please delete all. straight away.

“Remove these fertility apps now” Tweet Gina Neff, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge and director of the Center for Technology Democracy at Minderu. In an interview with her Zoom, Dr. Neff said the app contains “powerful information about reproductive choices that are currently a threat.”

These apps allow users to record the dates of their menstrual cycle and get predictions about when they are ovulating and most likely to be born. The app can also be used as a digital diary of sexual activity, contraceptive methods and pregnancy attempts. Some women use the app when they are about to get pregnant, some women use it to avoid pregnancy, and some women only use it to know when their next period will come.

The recommendation to remove them seems to have had the opposite effect. According to, which monitors app store activity, downloads of time-tracking apps have been 2 days since Roe’s overthrow, compared to the average weekly downloads of the last three months. It has doubled.

The biggest winner was Stardust, an astronomy-based menstrual tracker with lesser-known clues. Pledge To Data protection After the Supreme Court’s decision. A spokeswoman for Clue said the European-based company would not respond to requests for user health information from US law enforcement agencies.

Physiological trackers appear to be a clear source of reproductive health decisions, but experts say other digital information is likely to put women at risk. Cynthia Conticook, a civil rights lawyer and technical fellow at the Ford Foundation, investigated the charges of pregnant people accused of endangering pesticides or fetuses. Catalog of digital evidence She was used against them in academic papers Published in 2020..

“”We need to start with the kind of data that is already being used to criminalize people, “said Conticook, who previously worked for a publicly-elected lawyer’s office in New York. “A text to your sister,’Abusive, I’m pregnant.’ Access to an abortion drug search history or a website with information about abortion.”

One of the cases that Conticook emphasized is Ratic FisherA Mississippi woman charged with murder for the second time after having a stillbirth in 2017. Local report, Investigators download her phone content, including her internet search history, and she “allows internet searches, including ways to induce miscarriage,” and end-of-pregnancy medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol. Admitted how to buy online.After attracting public attention, the proceedings against Mr. Fisher drop..

In another case, in Indiana, Text message Used to convict Purvi Patel by a friend about taking an abortion drug late in pregnancy. appeal He commuted his 20-year sentence for murder and negligence of his dependents.

“These text messages, the websites we visit, and Google Search are the exact types of intentional evidence that prosecutors want to fill a bag of evidence,” said Conti-Cook.

Investigators may also use smartphone location data if the state passes a law prohibiting women from traveling to areas where abortion is legal. Information about people’s movements collected through mobile phone apps is regularly sold by data brokers.

A survey of data that appeared to be anonymized in the market in 2018 by the Newark Times was able to identify a woman who spent an hour in Newark’s planned parent-child relationship. May, journalist Deputy For just $ 160, I was able to buy information from a data broker about the calls that were brought to Planned Parenthoods in a week. (After the sub-report, the data broker Said to have planned To stop selling data about visits to healthcare providers. )

In the pastAnti-abortion activists “geofence” planned parent-child relationships, create digital borders around them, and direct owners to websites aimed at discouraging women from ending their pregnancy. We are targeting phones that enter the area with ads.

There are similar attempts to get the attention of people who go online to seek help with abortion. The Pregnancy Crisis Center aims to be the top search result for Google when people ask for information on how to end their pregnancy.When someone clicks on such a website, they may try to collect information About people..

Given the many ways people move, communicate, and search the internet digitally, the bigger problem is. How enthusiastic Law enforcement agencies will be states where abortion is prohibited. Those who advise against the use of menstrual trackers seem to be afraid of the worst. Search for people who are pregnant and no longer pregnant in the drugnet style.

“It’s hard to say when, where, how and what happens, but the possibilities are pretty dangerous,” Conticook said... “”It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. That’s why I’m trying to emphasize focusing on what I’ve seen used against people. “

She added: “Google search, websites visited, email receipts. That’s what we saw.”

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