The surveillance state is ready to criminalize abortion

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In the three weeks since draft notice disclosed of the United States Supreme Court promising to roll back the federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States, reproductive rights activists and privacy advocates have worked to understand the reality of the impact of a such change on Americans. And a new report from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, published tuesdayoutlines ways in which police, prosecutors and private litigants can leverage existing data access mechanisms and monitoring tools to enforce state abortion bans.

The research underscores what privacy advocates have been warning about for decades: a surveillance state designed to track certain types of behavior can easily, and inevitably, be adapted for other purposes.

“None of the tactics we’ll see used to target pregnant women will be new,” says Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “We have seen these same surveillance techniques develop in the name of immigration law enforcement, national security, drug enforcement and so many other law enforcement priorities. law. And the truth is that when you develop these techniques, you are at the mercy of those in power and what they then decide to call a crime.

Without a federally recognized right to abortion in the United States, massive amounts of data are generated and collected about consumers, internet users and anyone interacting with digital systems. can be typed by investigators seeking information on pregnant women. And tech companies will face requests from law enforcement for user data related to abortion investigations. STOP points to geofencing warrants – the investigative technique in which law enforcement requests data from devices used in a defined area for a specific period of time – are an excellent example of a surveillance mechanism. controversial that can, and probably will, be easily repurposed to investigate people. who may request or have obtained an abortion. Similarly, investigators could use keyword search warrants to identify and track people who use search engines to find information about abortion, providers, or abortifacients.

New York-based STOP is advocating for the state to pass proposed legislation to ban keyword and geofence mandates, a law that would be the first of its kind in the United States and could offer a model to follow for other States.

The research also points out that pro-choice states will need to re-examine local, interstate and federal data-sharing initiatives, including participation in “fusion centers” that allow multiple law enforcement groups to share information. . These and other controversial law enforcement initiatives aimed at fighting terrorism and tracking undocumented Americans could quickly be expanded to investigate pregnant women, reproductive health workers and others. A recent investigation by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology showed how far the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has been able to expand its surveillance powers by partnering with local and state agencies and combining many sources of data in what researchers have dubbed the “American net”.

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