Technology companies like Google and Facebook may turn over data collected from users to law enforcement where abortion is illegal, according to an Axios report Tuesday.
According to the report, these companies, and others, that collect personal data from users may be likely to surrender that information to law enforcement in states that make abortion illegal after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a right to abortion.
While the companies did not answer Axios's question about their plans about turning over such data directly, history seems to point to them handing it over when asked.
The high court decided to overturn the almost 50-year-old decision last Friday, ruling that there was no right to abortion in the Constitution and the decision should be sent back to the states.
Thirteen states have what are known as "trigger laws" that go into effect after Roe is overturned, and each lists different restrictions and limitations on abortion, Politico reported.
"All of our laws should protect innocent lives," said Denise Harle, senior counsel, and director of Alliance Defending Freedom's Center for Life. "If Roe is overturned, any injunctions against a state's pre-Roe law that were based on Roe would no longer hold. Once those injunctions are dissolved, the law can be enforced."
As the nation moves into the post-Roe reality, some are concerned that the data collected from online users could end up in the hands of law enforcement to prosecute cases in states where abortion is outright banned or illegal.
"Even though the government could get a court order or a subpoena or a warrant to access data, at the moment, there are so many different channels for it to do so without going through that legal process," Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Axios.
According to Axios, people may start limiting or ending the use of certain apps that track periods or develop the kind of information that law enforcement might seek in an illegal abortion case.
"I think that people may cut themselves off from access to important reproductive health information that they need because of these privacy concerns," Chin said.
Human Rights watch Technology Director Frederike Kaltheuner said in a June 24 post on Twitter that what people participate in online could have consequences.
"Something is sinking in today: Privacy is a time-shifted risk, meaning — what is convenient and risk-free today, can have devastating consequences tomorrow," her post read. "We should design the technologies we depend on in ways that protect us — no matter the political climate."
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