States move to shield health data amid abortion fight

States move to shield health data amid abortion fight

Some state governments and federal regulators are taking steps to protect individuals’ reproductive health information from being used in the abortion battle, following a report that revealed how cellphone location data was exploited to send anti-abortion ads to people who visited Planned Parenthood offices.


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The report, released last week by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, showed that a data broker called Near Intelligence collected geolocation data from millions of devices and sold it to The Veritas Society, a nonprofit founded by Wisconsin Right to Life. The Veritas Society then used the data to target people who visited 600 locations in 48 states with more than 14 million ads from 2019 to 2022.

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Federal law prohibits medical providers from sharing health data without a patient’s consent, but does not prevent digital tech companies from tracking and selling information such as menstrual cycles or location. Efforts to pass federal legislation to ban such practices have stalled, largely due to opposition from the tech industry.

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Abortion rights advocates fear that if such data is not kept private, it could be used not only for advertising, but also for law enforcement investigations or by abortion opponents looking to harm those who seek to end pregnancies.

“It isn’t just sort of creepy,” said Washington state Rep. Vandana Slatter, the sponsor of a law her state adopted last year to rein in unauthorized use of health information. “It’s actually harmful.”

But so far, there is no evidence of widespread use of this kind of data in law enforcement investigations. “We’re generally talking about a future risk, not something that’s happening on the ground yet,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project and an advocate of protections.

The report also highlighted the potential impact of the data industry on the U.S. dollar, which some crypto critics warn could be undermined by digital currencies. However, Federal Reserve Gov. Christopher Waller argued that stablecoins, which are tied to the value of the dollar, could actually strengthen the U.S. currency as decentralized finance (DeFi) catches on.

“People often conjecture that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin may replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency,” Waller said at an event Thursday in the Bahamas. But he noted that most DeFi trading uses stablecoins, and 99% of the market value of those tokens is tied to the value of the dollar. “So it is likely that any expansion of trading in the DeFi world will simply strengthen the dominant role of the dollar.”

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The strength of the dollar is vital to the U.S. economy and its foreign-policy interests, though that kind of government-based monetary dominance would be good to undermine, according to many crypto enthusiasts.

Source : yahoo finance

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