“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places [including abortion clinics], we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”
Even before the Supreme Court ruled last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, radical abortion activists, rank and file far-leftists, and their allies in the mainstream media were already stoking outrage mobs about what in their minds was the possibility that information from a woman’s computer or phone could be used by the authorities to prosecute them for having an abortion. Some even urged women to delete any “menstrual tracking” apps they may have had on their phones as a precautionary measure:
Stop using all menstrual cycle tracking apps. Do not post anything about how you feel about a pregnancy. Turn off your location tracker. Vote like your life, freedom, privacy, dignity, respect, autonomy and equality depends on it. Organize and be angry.
— Belle Weather 🌻🔰🌻 (@Thoreaus_Horse) May 7, 2022
Vice President Kamala Harris fanned the flames in comments she made two weeks before the ruling was handed down warning of how the apps supposedly could be used along with search engine information:
Kamala Harris warns women that GOP coming for the data on their menstrual tracking apps if Roe v Wade is overturned pic.twitter.com/Djf9qCEcM1
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) June 14, 2022
VP Kamala Harris lists her privacy concerns if Roe v. Wade is overturned:
"The vulnerability of women who are using menstrual tracking apps, those who use a search engine … States with abortion bans could potentially restrict IVF." pic.twitter.com/JzeKDUx8e6
— The Recount (@therecount) June 14, 2022
Post-SCOTUS decision, the calls to delete the apps (and search history, etc) reached fever pitch. This tweet, for example, has nearly 55,000 retweets and counting:
Right now, and I mean this instant, delete every digital trace of any menstrual tracking. Please.
— Prof Gina Neff (@ginasue) June 24, 2022
The Washington Post even joined in by giving advice on how women could stop leaving a “digital trail” of their abortion-related activity:
Seeking an abortion? Here’s how to avoid leaving a digital trail.
Everything you should do to keep your information safe, from incognito browsing to turning off location trackinghttps://t.co/1DOMfFh5l8
— Bonnie Jean Weinman (@bjweinman) July 3, 2022
The WaPo also mislead readers on the issue by suggesting that “texts, web searches about abortion have been used to prosecute women” though reading the fine print one sees that the cases they cited involved a Mississippi woman in 2017 who investigators believed gave birth to a baby at 36 weeks and then killed it and another from Indiana who in 2013 reportedly aborted her baby herself at 25 weeks via “abortion-inducing drugs she bought on the Internet” and then went to the hospital to be treated for excessive bleeding.
Also, in both cases, it appears someone the woman knew (whether a medical provider or a loved one) contacted the police. In other words, the police weren’t trawling phones, computers, and hospitals looking for women to arrest.
In response to all the hyperventilating and panic, Google – which prior to June 24th had zero problems with tracking every iota of information about their users and making billion$ off of it in the process – recently announced that due to privacy concerns they would soon implement a feature that automatically deleted tracking information of a person’s phone in the event that person visited an abortion clinic:
Location History is a Google account setting that is off by default, and for those that turn it on, we provide simple controls like auto-delete so users can easily delete parts, or all, of their data at any time. Some of the places people visit — including medical facilities like counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others — can be particularly personal. Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.
Now while I’m no fan of Big Tech giants like Google having access to my personal information, especially anything related to tracking my movements, it struck me as kind of hypocritical for them to take a “privacy” position on this considering how open they were about the personal COVID data they tracked in order to provide COVID Community Mobility Reports” and community “Exposure Notifications” – all under the guise of “public health.” Some states even used information gleaned by Google for their own COVID tracking purposes.
All of that said, I was surprised to see NBC News of all places try to dial down the temperature a bit by noting that a lot of the hysteria surrounding digital footprints related to abortion is overblown:
The internet is filled with warnings that single points of digital health data, like details from a period tracking app or Google Maps showing that someone visited Planned Parenthood, could be used against someone in a criminal case. But experts who have studied cases in which people have been prosecuted for abortion-related crimes say those fears are largely misplaced.
In the few cases in which people have been charged, law enforcement has been mostly concerned with evidence that someone knowingly carried out an abortion-related crime. A period tracker can at best indicate that someone became and then no longer was pregnant, which stops short of proving they had an abortion.
And as far as tracking information goes:
No state laws currently ban people from going from one state to another to get an abortion.
That means law enforcement would be unable to subpoena for location data related to an out-of-state abortion, since there would be no charges to bring.
But a person charged with receiving an abortion within a state where it is illegal could have their location data subpoenaed. In recent years courts have increasingly approved geofence warrants, which requires a tech or telecom company that tracks users’ location data to identify everyone who was in a designated area at a specific time.
The only correction there is that the “trigger laws” that went into place or will soon go into place in the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling will focus on investigating providers of abortions who are still giving them, not the women who have them. Though that could still mean potentially collecting search engine and location data, again we’re talking about a situation where a loved one or a friend or someone else the person (or the provider) knows would have to make the allegation to the police in order for any investigation to commence against the provider in most instances.
There will be no “abortion police,” as some on the left have suggested. There just simply won’t be.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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