Bill Would Ban Data Brokers From Sharing Health Or Location Information

In anticipation of the Supreme Court's possible reversal of Roe v. Wade, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would prohibit data brokers from sharing information about people's health or location.

The “Health and Location Data Protection Act,” co-sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), would task the Federal Trade Commission with issuing regulations, and would authorize the FTC and individuals to sue over violations.

“Data brokers profit from the location data of millions of people, posing serious risks to Americans everywhere by selling their most private information,” Warren stated. “With this extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and states seeking to criminalize essential health care, it is more crucial than ever for Congress to protect consumers’ sensitive data.”

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The health information covered by the bill includes searches for health services, and physical or mental health conditions -- including pregnancy and miscarriage.

Under the bill, a data broker is anyone who “collects, buys, licenses, or infers data about individuals and then sells, licenses, or trades that data.”

The measure defines location information as data that can determine past or present location of people or their devices.

The bill comes around six weeks after a draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft, but said the opinion is not yet final.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, 26 states are expected to immediately pass new restrictions on abortion, or enforce existing restrictions that were previously considered unconstitutional.

Since the draft was published, lawmakers and advocates have increasingly warned that data gleaned from people's online activity and app use could be used to prosecute women seeking abortions.

Warren last month was among a group of lawmakers who urged Google and Apple to crack down on apps that could disclose information to the government about women who seek abortions. The lawmakers specifically argued such apps should be banned from Google's and Apple's app marketplaces.

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