How people can protect their data in the wake of the Roe ruling

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has raised concerns about technology and the kinds of data that should be protected. Google said this week it will automatically delete abortion clinic visits from users' location history. But it's not clear how quickly that will happen. Rebecca Wexler, professor of law at University of California at Berkeley, joins Ali Rogin to discuss.

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  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has raised some concerns outside of the medical realm about data privacy. Just this week, Google said they will automatically delete abortion clinic visits from user's location history.

    But it's not clear how quickly that will happen. Or whether other information like search history or use of specific apps will also be included. Correspondent Ali Rogin recently spoke with Rebecca Wexler, Assistant Professor of Law at UC Berkeley about protecting this type of personal data.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us. There's been a lot of discussion about deleting things like period trackers, apps like that. But I know that you've been talking about how this is much more pervasive, and is also a matter of controlling the data that we use on all kinds of mundane apps that people use every single day.

    Rebecca Wexler, Assistant Professor of Law at UC Berkeley: That's absolutely right, that conversation about period trackers is essential. But it's a tiny piece of this bucket of data that we're generating. It's our location information, our web search histories, our purchase histories, our unencrypted chat messages and our emails, communications, data, associations, data, where we asleep at night, our heartbeat data, all of these kinds of things can be used to criminally prosecute people who are seeking abortions.

  • Ali Rogin:

    And that's a really daunting list that you just mentioned. So what should people be doing to try to protect themselves in their data?

  • Rebecca Wexler:

    If you are vulnerable at risk for an anti-abortion prosecution, don't use the internet to seek information. Leave your phone at home when you go to seek medical care. But really what we need is for tech companies to step up and protect users data not be collecting, not be storing should be purging data, should be giving users rights to remotely delete data should be foregoing using analytics to predict pregnancy and abortion.

    What we need are those commitments from tech companies not to volunteer the information to law enforcement not to sell it to data brokers not to traffic in it. That's what we need.

  • Ali Rogin:

    We know that there have been cases of tech companies clashing with law enforcement previously over privacy rights. Where do you see this conversation going? Where do you think some of these tech companies are going to end up based on their actions that they've already taken in other cases?

  • Rebecca Wexler:

    Just as you've said, they've done it before. So an example, Meta just won a case in the New Jersey Courts, where they challenged the scope of a warrant that was supposed to be executed over the course of 60 days, that was far too long.

    So there are examples of companies successfully pushing back even at the extreme of a law enforcement warrant and not having to hand over information. I think we should hold companies to that standard. You know, you can do it. You've done it before, you should be doing it here.

    But in addition, stop volunteering information to law enforcement, promise that you won't voluntarily handed over. When law enforcement comes and asks for information, notify the people whose information is being requested.

  • Ali Rogin:

    There's already also been a lot of questions about how these laws are — this patchwork of laws is going to make sense state by state.

    And so I wonder how do you see that question about enforcement over state lines playing out when it comes to these questions of data protection?

  • Rebecca Wexler:

    Yes, so there's some really tricky jurisdictional questions about whether law enforcement in a state that's criminalized abortion actually can compel disclosures from somebody in a state that permits abortion and I think tech companies need to put their litigation wait, and their well-paid lawyers behind challenging law enforcement demands for information from service providers who are located in pro-choice states.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Rebecca Wexler, Associate Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, thank you so much for your time.

  • Rebecca Wexler:

    Thank you for having me.

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