WASHINGTON – The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) condemned the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as profoundly misguided, with devastating impact for the right to privacy of people seeking reproductive care. State laws that criminalize abortion, or deputize private citizens to sue any person who performs an abortion or aids and abets such a procedure, create frightening new incentives for law enforcement and civilians to seek out private information about patients seeking reproductive care, and the providers who support them.
CDT President and CEO Alexandra Reeve Givens says:
“This ruling is devastating for the privacy rights of people seeking reproductive care. Historically, we have looked to the court to expand and protect our rights – not take them away.
In the digital age, this decision opens the door to law enforcement and private bounty hunters seeking vast amounts of private data from ordinary Americans. Location data that reveals sensitive reproductive health information can be collected and sold by data brokers without users’ knowledge. Data about a person’s reproductive health decisions can also be revealed from sources like their browser and search histories, email and text message logs, use of reproductive health apps, and other commercial products with which many users interact daily.
In this new environment, tech companies must step up and play a crucial role in protecting women’s digital privacy and access to online information. There are a variety of ways to do this, including strengthening and expanding use of end-to-end encryption; limiting the collection, sharing and sale of information that can reveal a person’s pregnancy status; and refraining from using artificial intelligence predictive tools that could reveal users’ pregnancy status. Companies should ensure that their content moderation policies, practices, and algorithms do not suppress access to information related to reproductive health.
Crucially, companies should carefully scrutinize and seek to limit the scope of surveillance demands issued in prosecutions to enforce anti-abortion laws. They should adopt clear and consistent standards for refusing overbroad requests, commit to giving their users timely notice of requests, and report publicly the numbers of surveillance demands they receive to increase public accountability.”
CDT is a 27-year-old 501(c)3 nonpartisan nonprofit organization that fights to put democracy and human rights at the center of the digital revolution. It works to promote democratic values by shaping technology policy and architecture, with a focus on equity and justice.