ANALYSIS-After Roe v. Wade, fears about health data privacy are growing around the world


* Concerns about digital tracking and health data security are growing * Many countries lack strong personal data protection laws

* Fear of being stalked can lead to more dangerous abortions By Rina Chandran and Diana Baptista

BANGKOK/MEXICO CITY, July 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – F or many women seeking abortions in the Philippines, an outright ban means the internet is their only source of help. But since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, activists fear some are too scared to type in “abortion.” Clandestine abortions are common in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, where women use pseudonyms on Facebook and in chat groups on the Telegram and Signal mobile apps to access abortion pills /20220624152713-jqufe and illegal abortion providers.

But from the Philippines to Chile, abortion rights activists say U.S. anti-abortion measures are raising fears that women seeking termination of pregnancy could be traced 6qiwm because of their internet search histories or location data. “Seeing the American trend, if Filipino women were more afraid to go online for information…it would only lead to more dangerous abortions,” said Clara Padilla, attorney and spokeswoman for Philippine Safe. Abortion Advocacy Network.

“They go online for help and advice because abortion is so stigmatized and dangerous in this country… They want to do it in a safe way,” said Padilla, who is urging local police not to prosecute women for abortion during gender sensitivity training. the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Many women do not have access to contraception in the Philippines and can be imprisoned for up to six years for terminating a pregnancy due to the ban on abortion under all circumstances – one of the most restrictive laws in the world. world.

So far, there have been no lawsuits against abortion seekers due to their online activity in the country, Padilla said. A data privacy law protects personal information and a cybercrime warrant is needed to obtain information from platforms, she added.

But many countries lack such legislation, and the anti-abortion shift in the United States has also fueled debate around the world over the safety of mobile health apps, which are often used to track fertility. Health apps regularly share sensitive consumer data with third parties, including social media companies, data brokers and advertisers, a 2019 study found /bmj.l920 in the British Medical Journal.

Use of fertility apps is growing rapidly in Asia, with app revenue in the region estimated by research firm Statista at nearly $100 million this year.

But many Asian countries lack strong data protection laws, including India where fertility app Maya was flagged by digital rights group Privacy International in 2019 for sharing reproductive health data. users with Facebook for targeted advertising. At the time, the app – which then had around 7 million downloads – said it did not share any “personally identifiable data or medical data”.

Sheroes, the company that owns the app, did not respond to a request for comment on whether it had changed its policy. Without India’s data protection law, users are at the mercy of apps, said Anushka Jain, associate lawyer at Internet Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group in Delhi.

“Health data needs a higher degree of protection, especially reproductive health data. But it’s really up to these private companies how they protect the data,” she said. Although India has rules protecting “sensitive personal data”, these are not strictly enforced and do not apply to government and public agencies, Jain said.

This is worrying, she added, as there have recently been several major breaches of the reproductive health data of millions of women held by federal and state agencies in India. India recorded the highest number of data breaches of any country last year, according to virtual private network Surfshark. Digital rights groups say this points to weak cybersecurity and a lack of accountability.

SERIOUS GUARANTEES Period-tracking apps are also widely used in Latin America, where a handful of countries have recently eased restrictions on abortion amid growing opposition to some of the strictest rules in the world.

Several countries in the region have data protection laws that allow the collection of personal data with the consent of the user. But the user often gives consent without knowing what it entails, or companies may not be completely transparent about how the data is used, said Juan Carlos Lara, director of Derechos Digitales (Digital Rights), an organization Chilean nonprofit.

“There has long been concern about the collection of personal data from people who use reproductive health apps in Latin America,” he said. “Rules may be insufficient to control abuse.”

Calendario do Periodo (Periodic Calendar), an app that goes by different names in various countries, was shown in a 2018 study of period-tracking apps by Coding Rights, a Brazilian think tank, as having access to user data such as photos and files, and not offering clear privacy information. A spokesperson for My Calendar, the apps’ owner, did not respond to questions about whether it had changed its policy.

Lara said he was also concerned about the possibility of digital tracking to see if someone accessed medical services, contacted a reproductive helpline or purchased certain medications. Although this has not been done for abortion seekers, “there is a risk if the authority can request this data from companies, or worse, if they can access a person’s devices”, a- he declared.

The seizure of cellphones and computers to search for evidence of alleged crimes is common in Latin America, he said. “That is why it is so important to create serious institutional safeguards so that authorities do not have uncontrolled access to data in the hands of companies, or to devices in the hands of people,” he added. .

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(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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