Trahan, House Tech Leaders Press Top Data Brokers for Answers on Reproductive Data Practices
Washington, July 21, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, led a coalition of House Democratic leaders on technology policy in requesting answers from powerful data brokers on their handling of women’s reproductive health data following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The letters are similar to requests also sent yesterday by a coalition of advocacy groups including Amnesty International, Fight for the Future, and Access Now.
“When consumers use apps on their phone and quickly tap ‘yes’ on ‘use geolocation data’ pop-ups, they should not be worried about the endless sale of their data to advertisers, individuals, or law enforcement,” the lawmakers wrote. “And it most certainly should not be used to hunt down, prosecute, and jail an individual seeking reproductive care. Companies can take action today to protect individual rights.”
The letters were sent to AWS Data Exchange, Oracle, Near Intelligence Holdings Inc, and Mobilewalla. A Markup investigation found that each company harvests, sells, or trades mobile phone location data. This data can be used to track users who may have visited abortion clinics or traveled outside of their home state to access reproductive care. While this data is often stripped of personally identifiable information, there is a long history of de-anonymization that has revealed the identities of individual users. In many states with abortion care restrictions, this data could be used by law enforcement, prosecutors, or in judicial proceedings to punish women for seeking care.
“Data collected and sold by your company could be used by law enforcement and prosecutors in states with aggressive abortion restrictions,” the lawmakers continued. “According to a report from Center for Democracy & Technology, law enforcement agencies leverage, ‘legal ambiguities to purchase data from brokers in an end-run around otherwise applicable legal requirements.’ Additionally, in states that empower vigilantes and private actors to sue abortion providers, this information can be used as part of judicial proceedings.”
In the letters, Trahan was joined by Representatives David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Adam Schiff (CA-28), and Sean Casten (IL-06) in requesting answers to the following questions by August 3rd:
A digital copy of each letter can be accessed below: