What to know about digital privacy in a post-Roe world


Statistics show that people of color endure more socioeconomic challenges than other communities, which directly correlates to the inability to access reproductive health resources.

[Illustration by Jaycee Felkins]

The Supreme Court’s decision to revoke Roe v. Wade resulted in a series of consequences.

One of these consequences is a violation of our right to privacy. The court’s decision encouraged law enforcement to criminalize citizens for their choices regarding their bodily autonomy. It put health care workers at risk of violence for providing needed services. And it has exposed black and brown communities to more deadly dangers due to lack of access to adequate health care.

Statistics show that people of color endure more socioeconomic challenges than other communities, which directly correlates to the inability to access reproductive health resources.

“When we look at the status of wages as well as…single-parent households or look at the rate of income levels for homes that have…women and/or people of color, the numbers speak for themselves,” said Malea Chavez, Executive Director of the Women’s Building in San Francisco. The Women’s Building is a Bay Area organization that supports women by providing support and empowerment through its mission of “self-determination, gender equality, and social justice.”

Chavez spoke about how difficult it is for people of color, who are already struggling, to find resources that take care of their reproductive health. “If they have to bear the cost of moving to a state that will provide that support or even round-trip travel, time off, child care, all of those things come under access to resources,” Chavez said. “Because in many cases people can feel like they don’t have a choice.”

Low-income communities often have less access to contraceptives and safe, legal abortions. In this era of post-Deer, as black and brown populations seek basic health care, their safety is threatened by the criminal justice system, as it always has been. Therefore, this article serves as an essential guide that will hopefully help protect the privacy of those affected by the Supreme Court’s decision and include cost-effective and accessible health advice.

While the right to privacy is enshrined in the constitution, the right to maintain that “privacy” is conditional. Big technology companies, such as Google or Apple, have implemented software that collects user data, often without their knowledge. Research has shown that Google stores location data on Android devices and iPhones, even if the device’s privacy settings prevent the sites from doing so, according to an investigation by The Associated Press (AP). Some Google apps automatically save time-stamped location data.

Data surveillance, location tracking, history search collection software and more have made sensitive information easily accessible to anyone searching.

“While people are concerned about pregnancy tracking apps…what we’re seeing right now is people’s phones, because you’re texting a friend, or you’re using Facebook Messenger or maybe -be it WhatsApp or a service, your phone is that place that law enforcement will first try to figure out what you’re doing,” said Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Foundation is an organization created to “defend digital privacy, freedom of expression and innovation. We have already had a few cases where people have been prosecuted for seeking abortions, either before deer where people looked for them too late. Or now post-deer.”

This type of privacy invasion was demonstrated in the Nebraska case of Celeste Burgess, then 17, and her mother, Jessica Burgess. Police subpoenaed Facebook messages distributed between the two individuals, believed to be private, to prosecute them for abortion-related crimes.

Protect your information

First, it’s important to remember to never hand over devices to law enforcement without a warrant and to keep those devices password protected at all times. This means disabling facial recognition and Touch ID as the main form of device login.

Second, even if the information is accessed through warrants, it is still crucial to use online chat protected with end-to-end encryption. Unless your conversations are end-to-end encrypted, it’s safe to assume that your messages are tracked, logged, and at risk of implicating you. According to the Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD) webpage, an EFF project, encryption protects information from bad actors, governments and service providers.

“Don’t use something like Facebook Messenger,” Cohn said. “Something like WhatsApp or Signal where the company providing you with the service doesn’t have a copy of your messages.” Signal is the most recommended instant messaging app because it offers more privacy and does not share any information with third parties.

Using specific insecure web browsers also has potential consequences. Therefore, EFF recommends using browsers such as DuckDuckGo, Brave and Firefox. Additionally, applying a private browser for internet searches prevents sites from tracking your visits and installing VPNs that protect against third-party surveillance through an unprotected WI-FI network is another necessary precaution. .

Creating new email addresses for confidential information through free email services other than Gmail is beneficial. Services like Protonmail and Tutanota offer privacy protection and use less tracking software.

All in all, it is advisable to double-check the privacy settings to make sure that the device is not tracking the history of the places you have visited. While apps may automatically save your location, your phone’s location settings may be disabled. If a person is visiting places that may put them at risk, especially in states where abortion is almost completely banned, the best recommendation, if possible, is to leave all electronic devices at home or anywhere away from the destination.

It is difficult to remain alert to any potential danger that may arise and unfortunately, until better legislation is enforced to protect citizens’ right to privacy, everyone is at risk of being harmed. We’ve seen law enforcement go to extreme lengths before to gain access to private information, but fortunately there are resources available to help protect against this. Other guides are available on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website, in English and Spanish. There are also videos available that teach the same privacy topics.

“Privacy isn’t something that’s just an individual set of decisions,” Cohn said. “It’s about everyone you interact with and how your actions can affect them and their actions affect you.”

To learn more, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation website below:

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