Phones Know Who Went to an Abortion Clinic. Whom Will They Tell?

Patience Haggin at Wall Street Journal: “Concerns over collection and storage of reproductive health data is the latest challenge for the location-data industry, which over the past few years has faced scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Data-privacy laws in California and other states in recent years have placed new restrictions on the companies, such as requiring companies to give consumers the right to opt out of having their data sold.

The Federal Trade Commission last month said it would strictly enforce laws governing the collection, use and sharing of sensitive consumer data. “The misuse of mobile location and health information— including reproductive health data—exposes consumers to significant harm,” wrote Kristin Cohen, acting associate director for the commission’s division of privacy and identity protection.

Without clear regulations for the location-data industry’s data on abortion clinics, individual companies are determining how to respond to the implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google recently said it would automatically delete visits to abortion clinics from its users’ location history.

Apple Inc. says it minimizes collection of personal data and that most location data is stored in ways the company can’t access. It has no way to access Health and Maps app data for people using updated operating systems, and can’t provide such data in response to government requests, the company says.

The vast location-data ecosystem includes many other lesser-known companies that are taking a different approach. A trade group for some of those firms, Network Advertising Initiative, announced a new set of voluntary standards for member companies in June, two days before the Dobbs ruling came out.

Participating companies, including Foursquare Labs Inc., Cuebiq Inc. and Precisely Inc.’s PlaceIQ, agreed not to use, sell or share precise location data about visits to sensitive locations—including abortion clinics—except to comply with a legal obligation…(More)”