Facebook has come under criticism after reports suggested that the social media giant complied with US police and turned over the messages in an abortion case. The case involves 41-years-old Jessica Burgess allegedly helping her 17-year-old daughter to terminate a pregnancy in state of Nebraska. The alleged messages shared with the police included those where the duo were discussing how to obtain abortion pills.
The incident has raised concerns over data privacy on social media since the tech giants have access to a considerable amount of it. The case has come to fore nearly two months after it happened. Around the same time,US was bracing to overturn its 50-year-old ruling in Roe v Wade - the landmark ruling that legalised abortion. The states now have the freedom to own their laws to regulate abortion.
Nabraska Abortion Case
According to reports, the girl was over 20 weeks pregnant and abortions in Nebraska, according to a 2010 law, are banned for pregnancies over 20 weeks. The girl is being tried as an adult, according to The Guardian.
The police had reportedly launched a probe in April after receiving a tip-off that Burgess had aborted the pregnancy and buried the fetus. The teenager's health records were then obtained by the cops which said that she was almost six months pregnant when the duo had terminated the pregnancy.
Burgess and her daughter told the police during the investigation that the girl had delivered a stillborn baby which they had buried with the help of a 22-year-old man. The same was confirmed in an autopsy.
Tech and privacy activists have time and again raised concerns on the safety of the user data with the data tech companies that could be used against those seeking abortions in view of its criminalisation in several US states. While Facebook boss ark Zuckerberg had ensured that Facebook's 'ongoing push to encrypt messaging' would safeguard the data, the Nabraska incident has raised eyebrows.
"Protecting people's privacy is always important, I get that this is extra salient right now [with] the Supreme Court decision and that specifically bearing on privacy," Zuckerberg was quoted as saying by CyberScoop back in June when the debate over safe abortions had gained momentum after US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade ruling.
Amid critcisim, Facebook owner Meta on Tuesday clarified its position saying the Nebraska court order "didn't mention abortion at all", but said it was about a case of a stillborn.
"Both of these warrants were originally accompanied by non-disclosure orders, which prevented us from sharing any information about them. The orders have now been lifted," Meta spokesman Dave Arnold was quoted as saying.
Safe abortions and data privacy
After the overturning of Roe v Wade ruling, the International Association of Privacy Professionals noted that online data makes it easy to track down if a woman had decided to get an abortion done. "It can be found in period tracking applications, online searches for abortion pills, employee medical records, geolocation tools, and, of course, in physical or digital health care platforms. In the case of fundraisers for abortion care, this data may also be found on payment and credit transfer platforms," the IAPP said in an article.
The fear of risks of data breach turned out to be true when it was found that a location data firm was selling information about people visiting abortion clinics. The data included everything--where the people came from, how long they stayed there and where they went after that. The Vice report noted that it costs around 160 USD to obtain a week's worth of data on people's movement involving abortion clinics.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?