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New US Abortion Law: Women Deleting Cycle Apps

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Status: 06/30/2022 03:24

In the United States, women are deleting their cycle apps. Because after the new abortion law comes into force, they have to worry that a court order could be used to access their private data. Tech companies are silent.

By Marcus Schuler, ARD Studio Los Angeles

For Kelly from the US state of Kentucky, it was clear hours after the Constitutional Court ruled she would remove her cycle app from her smartphone. “It’s a scary time for us women. Data from these apps can now be used against you.”

Kentucky is one of the states where the abortion ban went into effect immediately after the verdict was announced. Similar to Kelly, hundreds of thousands of women in the United States have likely deleted cycle apps like Flo from their phones in the past few days. These applications store the most intimate information. For example, if the user is pregnant.

Privacy advocates advise caution

Flo is one of the most popular apps. According to its own statements, it has 43 million users worldwide. However, the company, which is headquartered in Britain and has a subsidiary in the US, isn’t exactly known for handling sensitive information with great care. Three years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that it allegedly passed user data to Facebook without permission. And always when they had their period or wanted to get pregnant.

Data protection officials in the United States now generally advise women in affected states to be cautious when using these apps: “It could lead an overzealous public prosecutor in a state where abortions have become illegal to prosecute women suspected of having aborted”. , says Bill Budington of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. The organization campaigns for fundamental rights on the Internet.

The data protection expert says it’s not just about cycle apps. Basically, all technology companies that collect data are affected, i.e. Google, Facebook, but also small start-ups or ride-hailing service providers such as Uber and Lyft.

The silence of surprised tech companies

What surprises many privacy advocates these days, however, is that so many tech companies are currently silent, especially the big ones: Google and Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

I suspect they want to avoid questions about the handling of collected data and hope to be able to fly under the radar, so to speak.”

No wonder: the market for the purchase and sale of personal data in the United States represents an annual volume of 29 billion dollars. Google’s Android mobile operating system also works very well because, unlike its competitor Apple, the analysis of user data is part of the business model.

Data protection inaction now takes revenge

Riana Pfefferkorn studies electronic surveillance at Stanford University. She says years of government inaction on privacy issues are now taking their toll – to the detriment of many women in states where abortions are now banned.

Companies should also have thought about the amount of data they collect. What are they for ? Why are they permanently stored? They could have specified long ago what data is encrypted so that neither companies nor law enforcement can access it.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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