Texas abortion lawsuit renews activists’ calls for end-to-end encrypted messaging

Illustration: Aida Amer/Axios

A recent lawsuit in Texas against women who helped a friend access abortion medication renews calls for tech giants to make end-to-end encryption the default for their messaging services .

Drive the news: A Texas man recently filed a civil lawsuit against three women who he claims helped his ex-wife get abortion drugs and terminate her pregnancy, according to the Texas Tribune.

The lawsuit prompted Fight for the Futurean Internet rights advocacy group renew calls to Meta, Twitter, Google, Apple and any other company running a messaging platform to make end-to-end encryption the default for their services.

  • If a message is end-to-end encrypted, it’s impossible for tech companies to see what their users are saying — and therefore harder for them to comply with law enforcement data requests during investigations.

What they say“The obvious first step is to implement end-to-end encryption by default for all messages, so that tech companies can’t be forced to pass on people’s private messages,” said Leila Nashashibi, an activist with Fight for the Future. in a report.

Catch up fast: Even before the Supreme Court officially overruled Roe v. Wade, abortion and privacy advocates were warning people to lock down their digital communications And turn to encrypted services such as Tor, Signal, and Proton Mail private browsers.

  • Law enforcement authorities also used Facebook posts last summer to bring criminal charges against a Nebraska teenager who allegedly had an abortion, according to Forbes.

The big picture: Many tech giants targeted by defenders have already started implementing end-to-end encryption on their email services.

Yes, but: The chances of advancing the Texas case remain unclear. The plaintiff alleges his ex-wife had a self-directed abortion in July 2022, but Texas’ post-Roe abortion law didn’t go into effect until August.

  • The complaint is heavily based on screenshots of text messages between the four women. But it’s unclear how these screenshots were obtained or if encryption could have prevented their creation.

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