A U.S. congressional committee has asked data brokers and personal health apps to tell how they handle users’ reproductive health data amid concerns states will use the information to track patients seeking abortion where it is illegal.
Democrats on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee said they were concerned that location data, search history and other information on mobile phones could create “digital bread crumbs” that reveal interest in an abortion.
“The collection of sensitive data could pose serious threats to those seeking reproductive care,” the lawmakers wrote on Friday.
Democrats have scrambled to shore up abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last month eliminated the constitutional right to abortion. Several Republican-led states already have banned abortion and others are expected to do so soon.
The committee sent letters to five data brokers – SafeGraph, Digital Envoy, Placer.ai, Gravy Analytics and Babel Street – as well as five personal health apps – Flo Health Inc., Glow Inc., BioWink GmbH, GP International, and Digitalchemy Ventures.
The letters asked the companies, all privately held, to provide documents related to data sharing by July 21.
A June study by The Journal of Medical Internet Research found that 87% of the 23 most popular women’s health apps shared user data with third parties, yet just over half requested consent from their users, according to the committee.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign an executive order on Friday to help safeguard women’s access to abortion and contraception.
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