A House inquiry committee is seeking details from certain companies about how they handle personal reproductive and sexual health information in an effort to strengthen data privacy for abortion seekers as more states ban the procedure.
House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., and two other members sent letters to 10 data brokers and personal health apps asking for documentation about their practices for collecting and selling personal reproductive health data.
The Supreme Court abolished the constitutional right to abortion two weeks ago, sparking new concerns among privacy advocates about the potential misuse of data by those seeking abortion.
“Collecting sensitive data can pose serious threats to those seeking reproductive care and to providers of such care, not only by facilitating intrusive government surveillance, but also by putting people at risk of harassment, intimidation and even violence,” Maloney wrote in the letter with Democratic representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Sara Jacobs of California.
“Geographic data collected by cell phones can be used to locate people seeking care in clinics, and search and chat histories referencing clinics or medications create digital breadcrumbs revealing interest in an abortion,” she added.
Lawmakers suggested that profiteers in states that reward citizens who enforce the bans could target people seeking abortion care “by purchasing location data from data brokers.”
The letters were addressed to executives at five data companies, including SafeGraph, Digital Envoy and Placer.ai. Another series of letters were sent to executives of health apps that track fertility cycles, including Flo Health, Glow and BioWink GmbH.
The letters asked the companies to provide documents by July 21.
A study Published last month by the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20 of the 23 frequently downloaded women’s health apps it surveyed shared user data with third parties, and just over half asked for explicit consent from their users. .
Eight states have banned abortion services since the Supreme Court ruling. Others have imposed new restrictions, and more bans will come into effect in the coming weeks.
The congressional investigation also points to efforts by Democrats to block access to data that could be used for criminal purposes in states where abortion is illegal.
In June, a Senate committee began thinking about a account introduced by Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to grant an individual right to access personal reproductive and sexual health data held by regulated entities, including data held by third parties, and to request its deletion.
Chloe Atkins contributed†