Report Warns About Tools Used to Surveil Pregnant People
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
A new report sounds the alarm about surveillance technology which could be used to target pregnant people if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Since the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court indicating at least five justices plan to overturn the landmark abortion decision, New York lawmakers have passed bills to protect abortion patients and providers, and to limit the power of other states to extradite people who seek abortions in New York.
Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and co-author of the report, said search-engine tools such as geofencing and keyword warrants are already used to track pregnant people, and could be scaled up without Roe.
"All of the apps on our phone that collect our data are one court order away from being turned into a policing tool," Fox Cahn asserted. "And while that's been the reality for countless Americans for years, that's going to be a life-changing threat for pregnant people in America."
The report pointed to a case in Mississippi where a woman's search history was used to charge her with second-degree murder after a miscarriage. Fox Cahn urged lawmakers to enact privacy protections to complement abortion protections. He noted a ban on geofence warrants is pending in the Legislature.
Fox Cahn emphasized even if the bill to stop extraditions of abortion patients in New York is approved, law enforcement agencies would still be able to share surveillance data with other jurisdictions.
"Just as we've seen for years that even when we claim to be a sanctuary city in New York City, our police data is still being used to target our undocumented neighbors," Fox Cahn pointed out.
A group of 42 lawmakers last month signed a letter to the CEO of Google, asking the company to stop collecting and retaining location data from its users.
Fox Cahn added it is just the latest warning since 9/11 of surveillance tools installed in the name of national security, which pose threats to personal privacy.
"I think that this is really going to be an inflection point in the history of surveillance in America," Fox Cahn contended. "Because I think we can't have denial any longer about just how dangerous these surveillance technologies are."
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