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Why women in the US need to hide their digital footprint now

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when tilting Roe v. Wadethe US Supreme Court ruling in the Dobb’s case not only deprives women of reproductive control and physical power as a matter of constitutional law, but it also changes their relationship with the online world. Anyone in a state where abortion is now illegal and who relies on the Internet for information, products and services related to reproductive health is subject to online police surveillance.

All women of childbearing age, no matter how safe and privileged they may have imagined being, are now among the the marginalized and vulnerable populations whose privacy is at risk

As a researcher who studies online privacyI know how for a while googlesocial mediaand internet data can generally be used for: oversight by law enforcement to cast digital trawls. Women are not only at risk because of what they reveal about their reproductive status on social media, but also because of their data health applicationswho could charge them if they were subpoenaed.

Who is being tracked and how?

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People most vulnerable to online privacy breaches and to the use or misuse of their data have traditionally been those who deserve less protection from society: people without resources, power, or social status† Surveillance targeting marginalized people reflects not only a lack of interest in protecting them, but also a suspicion that their social identities make them more likely to commit crimes or transgress in ways that justify preventive police work

Many marginalized people happen to be women, including: low-income mothers, for whom the mere act of applying for government aid may subject them to suspicions of criminal intent. These presumptions are often used to justify: invasion of their privacy† Now, with anti-abortion laws that Republican-controlled states and ready to go into effect with the Roe v. Wade ending, all women of childbearing age in those states will likely be subject to the same presumptions.

In the past, women only had to worry about that Target whether Amazon could learn from their pregnancies. Based on what is already known about privacy violations by law enforcement against marginalized peopleis it likely that in the post-Roe world women will be more in the crosshairs of digital forensics† For example, law enforcement agencies routinely use: forensic tools to search people’s cell phones when investigating a wide variety of crimes, sometimes without a search warrant.

Credit: AP Photo/Brian Melley