LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, several online posts urged users of period tracking apps to delete them over fears that collected information could end up in court. Experts in data protection said the future is unclear for online privacy.
“Even just thinking about a data breach, if the information isn’t acquired by say, a law enforcement agency but is dumped online. That presents some degree of level risk for you especially when we’re living in an environment where depending what state you live in, you could be prosecuted,” said Thomas Holt, a professor of criminal justice with Michigan State University.
The rise of trigger laws targeting abortion in the wake of the end of federal abortion protections prompted several women’s health apps to emphasize their privacy policies.
In a post to users, staff with European based app Clue said strict privacy laws in the region protects American user data from law enforcement actions.
We would have a primary legal duty under European law not to disclose any private health data. No US Court or other authority can simply override that, since we are not based in the US. Our user data cannot be subpoenaed from the US. We are subject to the jurisdiction of the German and European courts, who apply European privacy law, as well as German human rights principles in criminal enforcement and procedural standards.Clue health app
Holt said European law and data encryption practices make it easier for these companies to protect user data.
“Depending on the degree applications move towards encryption. I’m thinking about apps like Signal, where there is encryption end to end. Which is much harder to get the information if a company doesn’t comply with a subpoena,” he said.
But what does data protection look like state side?
In a statement sent to 6 News, California based app Glow said “we will continue to uncompromisingly protect our users’ privacy and personal health information. Period.”
Cooley Law School professor Michael McDaniel agrees with Holt that American based companies might face a tougher fight in protecting user data. While some state laws protect the sale of such information, legal pressure could still work.
“Can’t give that information away, can’t sell that information to another party but that doesn’t mean law enforcement cant obtain that information through a properly executed search warrant,” said McDaniel.
McDanel and Holt said the post-Roe world means there could be new challenges to how far state government can impose restrictions to having access to information like abortion resources online.