KIA GUARINO, Executive Director, Pro-Choice Washington
Today is Global Encryption Day, which brings to mind something that happened several months ago and a few issues we need to address around digital privacy.
This past July, a Nebraskan woman and her teenage daughter were prosecuted for seeking abortion care after Meta handed over their Facebook direct messages (DMs) to the police. What was thought to be a “private” conversation between a mother and daughter has become a national turning point in the public conversation about digital privacy.
In this moment when health information is being weaponized, strengthening health data privacy is paramount. That is why Pro-Choice Washington, along with 60 other reproductive rights and justice organizations, is calling on tech giants like Meta, Apple, Google, and Twitter, and other social platforms with DMs, to ensure that their private messaging platforms stay, well… private.
The Make DMs Safe movement demands that these tech companies immediately enact default, end-to-end encryption for private messages to prevent personal conversations about private health issues from being used to enforce dangerous laws.
Encrypting private messages not only protects people who are in need of abortion care, but also journalists, LGBTQI+ folks, Black and Indigenous people, and other historically marginalized communities who have long been subject to inappropriate and dangerous surveillance.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are also a threat to your privacy
Fake abortion clinics, called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), outnumber legitimate reproductive healthcare clinics 3 to 1 across the U.S. Most CPCs do not provide any legitimate medical care, and therefore do not employ medical staff.
As a result, they are not subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards, which protect patients’ private health information from being shared without their consent.
In response to these threats against our privacy, Pro-Choice Washington and our coalition partners are working on a health data privacy bill for 2023 that will make sure personal information cannot be used to persecute or prosecute patients or providers in Washington state.
The bill will emphasize the importance of treating personal health information as private and will take yet another step to protect and expand reproductive freedom in Washington.
How you can take action on Global Encryption Day
Sign the Global Encryption Day statement and continue to stay involved with the campaign to keep your conversations private. Demanding action from tech companies and from our legislators will make sure that all people who need abortion care, and their providers, are safe – whether in real life or online in their DMs!