Today the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ripping away the constitutional right to abortion the United States. This cruel and unjust decision will impact the safety and human rights of millions of people. It will disproportionately harm poor people and people of color. And it shows that this extremist Supreme Court is intent on destroying other basic constitutional protections, like those for LGBTQ+ people and contraception. We urge everyone to support the efforts of abortion rights groups, particularly those led my marginalized people and working on the ground in states where receiving, offering, or even assisting an abortion patient is now a crime. As an organization focused on the intersection of technology and human rights, we vigorously support these groups, and will now speak to our own expertise.
In a post-Roe environment, tech policy decisions will have a profound impact on access to safe abortion care and the criminal prosecution of people seeking to assert their bodily autonomy, as well as those who aid them—be they doctors, family members, or activists. We call for immediate and sweeping action:
- Surveillance capitalism as a business model is incompatible with basic human rights, and this assault on bodily autonomy makes that clearer than ever. The White House, Congress and the Federal Trade Commission must do everything in their power to end corporate surveillance, data harvesting, and data retention practices that are weapons perfectly built to persecute abortion patients.
- Companies must end the collection and storage of sensitive location, health, and other data that will be used to apprehend and persecute anyone engaged in the abortion care process. Fight for the Future recently led an open letter to Google signed by Amnesty International, NARAL, and dozens of other organizations demanding a halt to unnecessary collection of cell phone location data. This echoes a similar call from more than 40 US lawmakers.
There has been understandable media focus on menstrual tracking and health apps, but the reality is that nearly every online service, app, and company must immediately reduce the types of data they are collecting and storing, implement strong end-to-end encryption wherever possible, and commit to fighting tooth and nail against law enforcement requests for data on abortion patients, abortion providers, and their loved ones.
Finally, companies cannot claim to support abortion rights while actively lobbying against privacy legislation that would protect abortion patients and providers. Big Tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon should fire the army of lobbyists they currently employ who are working around the clock to undermine meaningful privacy legislation.
- Lawmakers must reject dangerous and misguided proposals that will lead to widespread censorship of online speech about reproductive health care and abortion access. . In a post Roe world, weakening the free speech protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act will decimate digital access to abortion care, and organizing efforts for abortion rights.
If legislation proposed by top Democrats like the SAFE TECH Act or the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act were in effect today, web hosting services, payment processors, social media platforms, and other online services would face a barrage of abusive lawsuits from forced birth extremists (whose primary tactics include weaponizing litigation to deprive people of their rights.) This would almost certainly lead to widespread censorship and shuttering of online spaces where people are seeking and providing advice about reproductive health, fundraising and facilitating travel for abortion patients, and more.
This future is all too familiar to the sex workers and LGBTQ+ people who were harmed or killed by the horrific failure of SESTA/FOSTA. Lawmakers must listen and ensure history does not repeat itself.
- Individuals should take steps to protect themselves and their communities. Our friends at EFF have a post here with helpful suggestions for basic digital security steps everyone can take to protect abortion patients, providers, and allies. We at Fight for the Future encourage EVERYONE to take a few small steps.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or ashamed about your digital security. But every small step you take, whether it’s setting a strong passcode on your phone, switching to an end-to-end encrypted messaging app like Signal, or using a private search engine, makes you and your community a little safer.
To all those who feel helpless or afraid, know that we will do everything we can to ensure that your personal data is not exploited to deny your basic right to bodily autonomy or punish you for seeking healthcare. We will vigorously hold tech companies, backwards politicians, and whoever else accountable. Together, we CAN end the surveillance capitalist hellscape that profits from compromising the freedom and safety of traditionally marginalized people, restore our rights to privacy, and defend our rights to organize.