Democratic senators working to crack down on reproductive health data sharing

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 8:55 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - After the recent Supreme Court ruling that abortion rights are no longer protected under the Constitution, data privacy is in the spotlight. With many women using period tracking apps or other services that track their reproductive health data, legal questions remain about how this information can be used. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is spearheading legislation titled My Body My Data.

“I don’t think there is any privacy area right now that people are paying attention to than reproductive health,” said Wyden.

The bill aims to strengthen digital privacy and protect personal reproductive health information - specifically, minimizing the data that is collected and retained. Wyden introduced the bill after an opinion draft leaked from the Supreme Court indicating they would overturn Roe v. Wade, which eventually came to be in late June.

“What this is all about is the ultimate privacy issue for women: the right to control their own bodies,” said Wyden.

There are concerns how information might be used to prosecute women in states where abortion is now outlawed. Between period tracking applications, location services, online searches for abortion information, and more, privacy hawks like Wyden want to make sure the information is safe.

Al Gidari, a data privacy lawyer at Stanford University tells us this is reigniting the debate surrounding the broader issue of data privacy. He also says it is not clear how legislation like Wyden’s would impact state laws.

“We have to deal with a cross-border request for data,” said Gidari.

Gidari says it is past due for federal standards in data privacy. He says states are going to have to scrutinize warrants from other states and decide whether to abide by them. Gidari believes if a company or entity finds the data request to be out of bounds, they could bring these requests to the courts, bringing about further legal battles in this new post-Roe era.

“If you don’t agree with the nature of that request or it seems to infringe on other basic rights, you then send it to a court to make that decision,” said Gidari.

A House version of Wyden’s bill has also been introduced. Wyden’s legislation currently only has Democratic cosponsors.

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