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Roe v. Wade leak sparks fears over abortion rights, online privacy

A leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court suggesting justices may overturn Roe v. Wade has sparked renewed concerns about tech companies and the data they keep on their users.

If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic decision legalizing abortion in the US, states could move to make abortions illegal. Last year, Texas signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning them after six weeks of pregnancy. The law also allows anyone to sue any other person who performs the procedure or helps people get an abortion.

Some experts fear that those who seek abortions could be outed by tech companies to governments or law enforcement by handing over the troves of personal data they maintain upon request.

“With unintended consequences here, we’re really looking at a situation where tech companies’ very loose restrictions around collecting data and users’ data privacy is really going to put people who are seeking abortions, or even seeking to learn more about abortions, at risk,” said Mariana Ruiz Firmat, executive director at nonprofit organization Kairos, who uses the pronouns she/they.

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All users leave a digital trail or footprint when online, whether you’re shopping, signing up for services with an email address, surfing the web, or using social media.

Security firm Kaspersky says digital footprints “are relatively permanent, and once the data is public – or even semi-public, as may be the case with Facebook posts – the owner has little control over how others will use it.”

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