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Critics Say DOJ Rules Could Allow Abortion Privacy Violations

Democratic leaders have upped the pressure on tech companies to limit how much sensitive data they collect after the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, amid concern that states will use the information to target those seeking abortions. One of the tech industry’s most prominent allies is warning that federal prosecutors are setting a dangerous precedent on privacy, the Washington Post reports. The Chamber of Progress, a center-left trade group that receives funding from Apple, Amazon and other tech companies, said that the Justice Department has “repeatedly made arguments that undermine the Fourth Amendment protections for data” held by digital services. The amendment confers a right against unreasonable searches and seizures.


The group is calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to “update” the DOJ’s position on the issue “to ensure that state law enforcement agents are not able to invade women’s most personal data without adequate constitutional safeguards.” Elizabeth Banker, the group’s legal advocacy chief, said by chipping away at privacy protections in its prosecutions more broadly, Biden’s DOJ is creating a playbook that prosecutors could seize on to target women in states where abortion is illegal. “The Department of Justice is making these arguments that there is not [a] Fourth Amendment protection, let's say, in real-time location information or in email,” Banker said. The Chamber of Progress also voiced concern that federal prosecutors have argued that users forgo a “reasonable expectation of privacy” by signing tech companies’ terms of service. “Given that most online service providers have terms of service, this would render everything from a women’s calendar showing her medical appointments to her text message history with counselors available to state law enforcement with a simple subpoena,” they wrote.