Senate Democrats call out Apple, Google’s mobile tracking, warn of abortion-related data privacy risks

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, Cory Booker and Sara Jacobs are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google for failing to warn consumers about potential harm associated with ad-specific tracking identifiers in their information systems. mobile operations.

“These identifiers have fueled the unregulated data broker market by creating a single piece of device-related information that data brokers and their clients can use to link to other consumer data,” the lawmakers wrote. in a letter on Friday. “This data is purchased or acquired from app developers and online advertisers, and may include consumer movement and web browsing activity.”

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While consumers can opt out of tracking, they claim that Apple and Google have “enabled governments and private actors to exploit ad tracking systems for their own surveillance and exposed hundreds of millions of Americans to serious harm. breaches of privacy”.

“The FTC should investigate Apple and Google’s role in turning online advertising into an intense surveillance system that incentivizes and facilitates the rampant collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data,” the letter continued. “These companies have failed to educate consumers about the privacy and security dangers of using these products. It is high time to end the privacy breaches imposed on consumers by these companies.”

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The letter places particular emphasis on the potential vulnerability of people seeking abortions and other reproductive health care following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Data brokers are already selling, licensing and sharing location information of people who visit abortion providers to anyone with a credit card,” the lawmakers say. “Prosecutors in states where abortion becomes illegal will soon be able to obtain warrants to obtain whereabouts information from anyone who has visited an abortion provider. Private actors will also be incentivized by state bounty laws to track down women who have had or seek abortions by accessing location information through shady data brokers.”

A Google spokesperson told FOX Business that the company “never sells user data” and that Google Play strictly prohibits the sale of user data by developers.

“The Advertising ID was created to give users more control and provide developers with a more private way to effectively monetize their apps,” the tech giant added. “Any claim that the Advertising ID was created to facilitate the sale of data is simply false,”

In addition to the ability to remove the Advertising ID at any time, Google has rolled out Privacy Sandbox on Android to limit data sharing with third parties. An Apple spokesperson did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital privacy advocacy group, advises Internet users concerned about their abortion-related data to carefully review the privacy settings of the services they use, Disable location services on apps that don’t need them. and use encrypted messaging services.

“Everyone deserves to have strict control over the collection and use of information that they necessarily leave behind as part of their normal activities, such as using applications, queries on search engines , posting on social media, texting friends, etc.,” the EFF executive director said. Cindy Cohn and Chief Legal Officer Corynne McSherry said in a statement. “But those who seek, offer or facilitate access to abortion must now assume that any data they provide online or offline could be sought by law enforcement.”

It also suggests that companies should protect users by allowing anonymous access, stopping behavioral tracking, strengthening data deletion policies, offering end-to-end and in-transit encryption, preventing the tracking of location and ensuring users are notified when their data is being sought.

Additionally, the organization calls on state and federal policymakers to pass meaningful privacy legislation.

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At least 13 states in the country have what is called “triggering laws” banning most abortions that will take effect immediately or within weeks of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group, these states are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, which just passed its trigger law in April.

There are also five additional states – Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin – that still have an abortion ban on the books before Roe v. Wade that will come into effect now that the landmark 1973 law is overturned.

Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report

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