Data Reportedly 'Harvested' From Planned Parenthood Clinics May Be Sold to Anti-Abortion Vigilantes

© Planned ParenthoodPlanned Parenthood sign
Planned Parenthood sign - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.05.2022
Location information is harvested by a US data firm from ordinary apps installed on phones, a report revealed, with people more often than not unaware of the fact that their mobile is collecting and sending location data to third parties.
Paying just over $160 will allow anyone to purchase a week's worth of data on people who visited Planned Parenthood facilities, which also provide abortions, according to Motherboard.
A location data firm – SafeGraph – is reportedly selling information that reveals where these individuals came from, how long they stayed there, and where they went afterwards.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by the GOP leadership, meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Reacting to reports that the Supreme Court could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, McConnell said the leak should be investigated and punished to the fullest extent possible.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.05.2022
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If location data is available on the open market, there are concerns that it could be procured by anti-abortion “vigilantes”.

‘Harvesting’ Location Data

The company cited in the report by Motherboard obtains the location data from ordinary apps, such as a prayer or a weather app, installed on people’s phones, according to the news portal. This is believed to be possible because app developers often install code, called software development kits (SDKs), that sends users’ location data to companies in exchange for the developer receiving payment.
Sometimes users are oblivious of the fact that their phone is collecting and sending location data to third parties. SafeGraph is described as subsequently repackaging the location data, along with other information, into various products.
To achieve its goal, SafeGraph classified "Planned Parenthood" as a "brand" that can be tracked. It also referred to the data product as “Patterns”.
For its report, Motherboard purchased data that includes over 600 Planned Parenthood locations across the US. The result incorporated a week's worth of location data pertaining to mid-April. Motherboard clarified that not all Planned Parenthood locations offer abortion services. However, some facilities included in the purchased dataset have been verified by the outlet as providing such services.
After the news portal searched the SafeGraph website for “Family Planning”, it was offered a list of “Family Planning Centers” that people could buy data related to.
SafeGraph is believed to be able to calculate where visitors to a specific location live by analysing where a phone is commonly located overnight.
Planned Parenthood, Motherboard underscored, is not the organisation harvesting data or profiting financially from it. There has not yet been any comment on the report from either Planned Parenthood or SafeGraph.
Demonstrators protest outside of the Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a Politico report released Monday. Whatever the outcome, the Politico report represents an extremely rare breach of the court's secretive deliberation process, and on a case of surpassing importance. - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.05.2022
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The reported data sale comes against the backdrop of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion in which Justice Alito indicated the court’s readiness to repeal the decision in the decades-old Roe v. Wade precedent. The latter provides federal protections to those seeking an abortion.
If, the US Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, it would have major impact in US states that have previously signalled their intention to restrict or ban abortion. 13 US states have “trigger laws” to ban abortion if Roe is overturned. This is legislation that may achieve enforceability if a key change in circumstances occurs. Additionally, some states have laws, yet to be put into effect, banning abortion after six to eight weeks.
Accordingly, the Motherboard report claims, people might be increasingly forced to travel to other states where abortion access is easier. For example, this is already said to be the case with people in Texas. As of 1 September 2021, abortion is illegal in Texas once a foetal heartbeat can be detected in line with the Texas Heartbeat Act. A detectable heartbeat may be determined as early as six weeks into a woman's pregnancy. Prior to the legislation, elective abortions were allowed up to 20 weeks post-fertilisation.
Weighing in on the report on location data by Motherboard, Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher, was cited as saying:

“It's bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic. This is how you dox someone traveling across state lines for abortions—how you dox clinics providing this service”.

According to Edwards, “SafeGraph is going to be the weapon of choice for anti-choice radicals attempting to target ‘out of state clinics’ providing medical care”.
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