Following the Supreme Court ruling that ended federal abortion protections, legislators, tech companies and users are asking how complicit tech should be in the prosecution of those seeking the procedure where it’s banned. In the foggy landscape of a post-Dobbs world, eyes are turning to geolocation data, message encryption and period-tracking apps.

Last week, Flo, the No. 1 period-tracking app in the Apple store, made “anonymous mode” live after widespread calls to protect users’ data. Thirty senators also called for the strengthening of federal privacy protections under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), further prohibiting providers from sharing patients’ reproductive health information without consent. The American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), if passed, would also work in protecting health data.

These moves follow two data privacy cases earlier this summer. A Nebraska woman was charged with an illegal abortion after authorities found substantiating evidence in private Facebook messages. The Federal Trade Commission sued Idaho-based Kochava Inc., claiming the company sold the geolocation data of millions of users.

“All that sensitive personal information will likely at some point be the basis of search warrants from law enforcement in states where jurisdictions have criminalized and are trying to prosecute people seeking, offering or facilitating abortion,” said Logan Koepke, program director at Upturn, an organization which investigated ways technology reinforces inequities. “As a result, I think companies should be taking the step to limit how they collect, retain or otherwise use data that could be used by law enforcement to glean information about someone’s reproductive health.”

Tech companies can receive thousands of warrants a year from law enforcement seeking access to user data, Koepke said in an interview. Companies can go to court to avoid a warrant, often arguing the warrant’s scope is too broad or it changes a central feature of their technology. They can also simply not retain the data being sought.

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