Guess who collects and shares data related to abortion?

Should there be any lingering doubt about whether abortion and location data is being collected — and used to track — people in post-Roe America, the lawsuit and two investigations must put those doubts to rest.

On Thursday, the US Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Easy Healthcare, which makes fertility tracking app Premom. The deal relates to fees for the app sharing sensitive personal information and health data — including pregnancy status — with third parties, including marketing firm AppsFlyer and Google, all without users’ consent.

Google is fighting its own legal battle over allegations that it is illegally collecting health data, including on abortion-related searches, on third-party websites that use Google technology.

Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal report Thursday said a Midwestern group used geofencing to send targeted anti-abortion ads to the cellphones of people who visited some Planned Parenthood clinics.

Internal emails show that social media monitoring firm Dataminr helped the US Marshalls Department monitor abortion rights advocates by flagging Twitter posts by protest organizers and attendees, and sharing them with the federal law enforcement agency.

Easy, but not overly personal

The FTC settlement stems from a legal complaint [PDF] Earlier this month against Easy Healthcare, which developed a fertility tracking app called Premom.

The app collects users’ health information including menstrual cycle dates, temperatures, pregnancy and fertility status, whether pregnancies start and end, weight, results for progesterone and other hormones, and symptoms associated with pregnancy.

Court documents state that Premom promised users “repeatedly” that it would not share their health information with third parties, and that the data collected was only used for its own analytics or advertising.

Despite these pledges, the fertility tracker allegedly deceived users by disclosing sensitive and identifiable health details to AppsFlyer and Google by integrating software development kits (SDKs) into the Premom app, and disclosing consumers’ health information to these third parties through something called Labeled as Custom Application Events, which are records of user interactions with the application that are unique to Premom.

“For example, when a user uploads an image of an ovulation test, the defendant records the user’s interaction with that feature as a custom app event that is shared with Google and AppsFlyer,” the court documents state.

Also, rather than anonymizing these events, Premom uses specific terms to describe them in its records, the suit alleges.

“For example, when a user opens a Premom calendar and records their fertility, the respondent records the custom app event as a ‘fertility calendar/report/log,’” he says. And when the user records and saves information related to their fertile period, the respondent registers a custom application event named “Save Record Period”. Respondent chose other descriptive titles such as “engagement/birth” and “ovulation/steady/success.”

under the proposed order [PDF], Easy Healthcare will pay $200,000 and permanently ban users’ personal health data from sharing with third parties for advertising. The company will also be required to seek deletion of data it previously shared, among other remedies.

Easy Healthcare maintains that it does not “and never will sell any information about users’ health to third parties, nor do we share it for advertising purposes.”

The company said in a statement that its settlement with the FTC “does not amount to an admission of wrongdoing.” “It is a settlement to avoid the time and expense of litigation and to enable us to leave this matter behind and focus on you, our users.” Do whatever you like.

How do you get caught geofence

Marketing companies aren’t the only ones who want to get their hands on a carrying case for mobile users.

Society Veritas, a nonprofit fund set up by Wisconsin Right to Life, used precise geolocation data from cell phones to send targeted anti-abortion ads to people who visited Planned Parenthood clinics.

“Take the first pill in the clinic? Maybe it’s not too late to save your pregnancy,” the Wall Street Journal quoted one such ad.

An old version of the Veritas website brags about the success of this ad campaign:.

The biggest privacy concern here is that while these mobile device identifiers are supposed to be anonymous, when combined with geo-location coordinates, it doesn’t take much analysis to connect a phone to someone – and that can put an individual at risk of serious harm.

No order required

A separate investigation by The objection, published on Monday, found that Dataminer reported “dozens of protests,” including abortion rights demonstrations, to the US Marshall Department by mining Twitter users’ posts between April and June 2022 — roughly the time since the US Supreme Court’s decision. cancel ru case. v. Wade leaked the official ruling revoking the constitutional right to abortion that was passed on Friday in June.

The objection It reviewed 800 pages of emails and internal documents belonging to U.S. soldiers, collected through a public records request, and found that “Dataminer had flagged social media posts of protest organizers, participants, and bystanders, and had taken advantage of Dataminer’s privileged access to a so-called firehose.” .of unrestricted Twitter data to monitor constitutionally protected speech.”

For example, on May 3 last year, New York-based artist Alex Renick tweeted about a protest planned for later in the day. Dataminer sent this tweet to the marshal, and continued to send law enforcement agency alerts as the rally progressed—messages including “Protesters blocking nearby streets near Foley Square” and photos of protesters—all collected from Twitter. ®

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