Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led 13 different Democratic senators on Wednesday in blasting information brokers for gathering and promoting the cellphone-based location information of people that go to abortion clinics, saying the businesses are risking these individuals’s security.

In a letter to companies SafeGraph and Placer.ai, the senators demanded solutions in regards to the information brokers’ assortment practices and known as on them to create a whole and everlasting ban on these and comparable practices.

“Anti-abortion activists have already used location information to ship focused anti-choice ads to women’s phones while they are sitting in abortion clinics,” the senators wrote within the letter. “Anti-abortion politicians in Republican-led states have positioned bounties on girls who obtain abortions and medical doctors that present them and even proposed legal guidelines that might punish pregnant individuals for touring to hunt abortions out of state. Anti-abortion prosecutors have used search and message information to criminally cost abortion-seekers.”

Knowledge brokers within the U.S. sometimes use a three-step enterprise mannequin, in line with the senators. Firms first gather quite a lot of information from People once they use net and cell functions, usually with out their knowledgeable consent. Knowledge brokers then repackage that information and promote it in bulk to purchasers who purchase the info for quite a lot of functions, making what the senators mentioned is a $200 billion information dealer trade extremely worthwhile.

However in line with the senators, SafeGraph and Placer.ai particularly gather exact location and time information, revealing the places of individuals at abortion clinics earlier than, throughout and after their visits — together with the place they dwell.

“These and different practices concentrating on girls searching for needed well being care companies are nearly sure to escalate if Roe v. Wade is gutted and abortion is criminalized immediately in states throughout the nation,” the senators wrote. “Underneath these circumstances, [your company’s] determination to promote information that allowed any shopping for buyer to find out the places of individuals searching for abortion companies was merely unconscionable, risking the protection and safety of girls all over the place.”

A safety guard opens the door to the Entire Girls’s Well being Clinic in Fort Value, Texas, on Sept. 1, 2021. Texas has launched information displaying a marked drop in abortions at clinics within the state within the first month beneath the nation’s strictest abortion regulation.

LM Otero by way of Related Press

SafeGraph advised HuffPost that the corporate doesn’t present any information about any people — solely bodily locations — and maintained that its prospects can not deanonymize the info. The corporate additionally rejected a declare within the senators’ letter that Google had banned SafeGraph, saying the tech large had by no means contacted the info dealer.

The corporate additionally pointed to a May 3 statement saying it’s eradicating datasets that present how teams of individuals work together with “household planning facilities,” however will proceed offering information on such locations that embody their location and hours.

Nonetheless, the senators mentioned that SafeGraph has nonetheless not supplied particulars about what number of People’ information it offered, who bought it, how lengthy it was publicly accessible, whether or not the info removing was everlasting and what SafeGraph would do to assist these whose information had already been offered.

Placer.ai declined to remark particularly on the senators’ letter, but referred to a May 6 statement the corporate made saying it by no means has and by no means will promote user-level information, and “intentionally” doesn’t take part within the “advert tech trade the place most prospects anticipate to have the ability to monitor particular person habits.”

“Following current media studies, we eliminated all Deliberate Parenthood places from our dashboards – the one abortion supplier in our system – to dispel any potential considerations about how our information can be utilized,” the assertion learn. “Moreover, our crew confirmed that there have been no searches for Deliberate Parenthood on the Placer system prior to those particular media inquiries. This is part of an ongoing effort to take away all delicate locations from our system.”

Federal Commerce Fee Chair Lina Khan spoke about location tracking at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday. Khan mentioned the fee is taking a “complete strategy” to deterring illegal information practices, together with people who hurt person privateness or information safety.

“It’s enormously in regards to the diploma to which we’ve seen monitoring of individuals’s location principally emerge into a really profitable market the place all types of firms starting from information brokers to aggregators at the moment are trafficking on this information, which as you famous might be extraordinarily informative and insightful,” Khan mentioned to Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), who requested in regards to the difficulty.

“It will probably let you know when persons are going to church, in the event that they’re accessing reproductive well being companies, and might be exploited by a complete set of unhealthy actors. So that is actually one thing that’s on the FTC’s radar; the FTC up to now has executed workshops and enforcement actions on this space.”

Khan cited the FTC’s motion in opposition to “stalkerware” firm SpyFone, which allegedly offered software program that allowed purchasers — doubtlessly together with stalkers — to watch one other individual’s telephone and have real-time entry to delicate exercise. The fee banned both the company and its CEO from the surveillance enterprise, however Khan acknowledged the present information dealer market is much more troubling.

“I feel the truth that we now have a complete sub-economy on this that’s incentivizing the limitless assortment of this information, even when the app or service doesn’t require your location – I feel that invitations us to suppose laborious about whether or not we have to be setting clear limits on any such factor,” she mentioned. “And naturally, there are quite a lot of discussions in Congress round potential privateness laws.”

Learn the senators’ full letters under.