Police are using Facebook chat logs to prosecute abortion seekers

In the immediate future following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, women worried that data from their period-tracking apps would be used to sue them for having an abortion. Now women and people with wombs need to consider what they write in chat logs, direct messages, and online search bars.

A report of Initiated(Opens in a new tab) Note that ProPublica(Opens in a new tab) found that at least nine online pharmacies that sell abortion drugs – Abortion Ease, BestAbortionPill.com, PrivacyPillRX, PillsOnlineRX, Secure Abortion Pills, AbortionRx, Generic Abortion Pills, Abortion Privacy and Online Abortion Pill Rx – shared information such as user web addresses. , relative location and search data with third-party sites like Google. This type of exchange opens that data up for discovery as part of law enforcement requests.

But the demands of law enforcement are not new.

Initiated points out the case of Jessica Burgess(Opens in a new tab), who is accused of helping her daughter perform an illegal abortion in her home state of Nebraska. A key piece of evidence in the case against Burgess was chat logs(Opens in a new tab) provided to law enforcement by Meta discussing looking for abortion drugs on Facebook. The request for proof has been made Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Social media companies are often legally obligated to comply with law enforcement requests for user data. Unlike public user content, which can be viewed by anyone and used in court, private user content, such as location, search, or messaging history, must be obtained through a warrant. . Since June 2022,(Opens in a new tab) Meta said it receives over 200,000 requests for information and complies about 76% of the time.

In 2022, Google announced that it Automatically delete location history of users who have visited abortion clinics. Google said it would “oppose overly broad or legally objectionable requests” when it comes to using data as evidence, but as Mashable’s Alex Perry notes, that statement leaves a lot of wiggle room.

But Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, said Initiated that social media is just a “pawn” in the larger law enforcement game of prosecuting women for having abortions.

So what can you do to minimize your risk? Know that most of what you say online can be used against you when it comes to abortion lawsuits in states where abortion is illegal. Talk to people you trust in person rather than over the phone, text or social media. Waiting for, here’s how to donate to abortion funds and reproductive justice networks across the country.

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