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posted by hubie on Wednesday January 25, @01:19AM   Printer-friendly

Law enforcement can potentially use this data for prosecutions:

Online pharmacies that sell abortion pills are sharing sensitive data with Google and other third parties, which may allow law enforcement to prosecute those who use the medications to end their pregnancies, a ProPublica analysis has found.

Using a tool created by the Markup, a nonprofit tech-journalism newsroom, ProPublica ran checks on 11 online pharmacies that sell abortion medication to reveal the web tracking technology they use. Late last year and in early January, ProPublica found web trackers on the sites of at least nine online pharmacies that provide pills by mail: Abortion Ease, BestAbortionPill.com, PrivacyPillRX, PillsOnlineRX, Secure Abortion Pills, AbortionRx, Generic Abortion Pills, Abortion Privacy and Online Abortion Pill Rx.

These third-party trackers, including a Google Analytics tool and advertising technologies, collect a host of details about users and feed them to tech behemoth Google, its parent company, Alphabet, and other third parties, such as the online chat provider LiveChat. Those details include the web addresses the users visited, what they clicked on, the search terms they used to find a website, the previous site they visited, their general location, and information about the devices they used, such as whether they were on a computer or phone. This information helps websites function and helps tech companies personalize ads.

But the nine sites are also sending data to Google that can potentially identify users, ProPublica's analysis found, including a random number that is unique to a user's browser, which can then be linked to other collected data.

"Why in the world would you do that as a pharmacy website?" said Serge Egelman, research director of the Usable Security and Privacy Group at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. "Ultimately, it's a pretty dumb thing to do."

[...] While many people may assume their health information is legally protected, US privacy law does little to constrain the kind or amount of data that companies such as Google and Facebook can collect from individuals. Tech companies are generally not bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, which limits when certain health care providers and health plans can share a patient's medical information. Nor does federal law set many limits on how companies can use this data.

Law enforcement can obtain people's data from tech companies such as Google, whose privacy policies say the companies reserve the right to share users' data with law enforcement. Google requires a court order or search warrant, which law enforcement can obtain with probable cause to believe a search is justified. The company received more than 87,000 subpoenas and search warrants in the US in 2021, the most recent year available; it does not provide a breakdown of these requests by type, such as how many involved abortion medication.

[...] Users can install a web browser, such as Brave or Firefox, that offers privacy protections. They can also install browser extensions to block third-party trackers and adjust the privacy settings on their browsers. But these steps aren't always foolproof. Tech companies can still subvert them using hidden tools that users cannot see, and they likely retain vast troves of data that are beyond users' control.

"Individuals are not going to solve this problem; technical solutions aren't going to solve this problem," said Chris Kanich, associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "These trillion-dollar companies of the economy aren't going anywhere. So we need policy solutions."


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday January 25, @01:36AM (17 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @01:36AM (#1288469) Homepage Journal

    Abortion is not the issue. The issue is, online pharmacies are sharing ALL of our data with Google. As are doctor's offices, mental health specialists, and every medical facility in the country.

    There are about 350 million Americans. And, there are at least 350 million reasons why one bit or another of medical information might be embarrassing. Had a mastectomy? You might not want the world to know it. Hemorrhoids? AIDS? Sexually transmitted disease? Any of thousands of diseases, conditions, or whatever. Simple pregnancy (if there is such a thing)? You just might want to keep it a secret until you've had time to share it with the people you care most about first.

    Private data should be private. Abortion isn't special in that respect.

    It's time that we let Corporate America understand that basic human right. The right to privacy.

    And, let's stop singling out special case data as special.

    --
    Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Tork on Wednesday January 25, @02:04AM (1 child)

      by Tork (3914) on Wednesday January 25, @02:04AM (#1288470)

      And, let's stop singling out special case data as special.

      ... or you could make excellent use the topic that was powerful enough to do serious damage to the GOP to achieve your stated goal of letting Corporate America understand that privacy is a basic human right.

      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "25 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday January 25, @01:06PM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @01:06PM (#1288520) Journal

        Abortion is but one option in healthcare, just one of many available procedures that because it is applicable to women only, has always been ripe for singling out by misogynist scum. I take the gp's comment about "singling out" as meant in this way.

        Abortion shouldn't be a big deal, but thanks to social conservatives, it is. And by now we all have, or should have, a pretty good idea why, and it's not sincere concern for health and family and life, no, that was always a lie, an excuse. As is all too frequent with social conservatives, they too quickly resort to force to have it their way. Forget about convincing people, just criminalize it. And so our laws and government are once again hijacked by a minority seeking to impose their warped morals on everyone. A logical extension of the criminalization of abortion is to also criminalize the simple option of a woman saying "no" to a man. Eliminate rape as a crime altogether by instead criminalizing unwillingness and refusal to have sex. Also, if abortion should be criminalized, shouldn't vasectomy also be criminalized? And removal of any bit of testicles, criminalize that too, never mind whether he has cancer there. Erectile dysfunction, blame and punish men for that too.

        Privacy is one way to confound such rule making. They can't punish what they don't know about. It's not ideal, but it is something.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by crafoo on Wednesday January 25, @03:39AM

      by crafoo (6639) on Wednesday January 25, @03:39AM (#1288480)

      articles are written this way because evidence shows emotional manipulation convinces people far more effectively than logic and statistics that describe reality

      usually it's a simple metaphor that invokes emotionally-charged imagery and experiences that you would like associated with an argument

      also of course, mind-numbing repetition until, you know, it must be true. the herd is all saying it.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday January 25, @03:44AM (13 children)

      by sjames (2882) on Wednesday January 25, @03:44AM (#1288481) Journal

      The abortion data significantly ups the ante. Nobody ever went to jail for having hemorrhoids, but several state legislatures are actively seeking to make obtaining abortion drugs a jailable offense.

      Yes, private data should be private, but for now the consequences are much higher for abortion.

      • (Score: 0, Troll) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday January 25, @04:22AM (12 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @04:22AM (#1288487) Homepage Journal

        Perhaps we've forgotten that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death on some countries? And, that Google will respond to warrants from police forces in foreign nations? If we are going to key on private data that might result in a prosecutor bringing charges, wouldn't it be better to key on data that reveals sexual proclivities? Oh - adultery can result in execution in some countries, notably, adulterous women in Islamic countries. More sexual proclivities that need to be protected.

        Abortion? First world problem of privileged women. But, that's what gets people's attention.

        --
        Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by janrinok on Wednesday January 25, @09:53AM (10 children)

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @09:53AM (#1288513) Journal

          Abortion? First world problem of privileged women.

          I cannot believe that you just wrote that! So a child raped, possibly by another member of her family, should be denied an abortion because she is 'privileged', a 'first world problem', and should be made to carry to full term? Indeed, should any woman who has been raped be treated in such a way? Oh, how trivial these things seem to be to you.

          As for the other examples that you quoted, they are nothing like a serious as you portray. If homosexuals or adulterers don't want to be subjected to foreign laws then they should not visit those countries. Don't do business with them. Do not support them. Maintain political dialogue, try to change their views by persuasion and education, but stop there. There, that wasn't difficult to solve was it? There are plenty of other countries in the world that will welcome people as visitors and give them the privacy that you do not seem to value in the US.

          You probably demand that everybody who visits the USA should obey your laws so why don't you expect that to work the other way around? Is the USA really the nation that you think should be attempting to influence others by its own example? Currently the US example isn't displaying tolerance for all and acceptance of everybody's rights, but quite the opposite. The laws that have been recently introduced or undone, and those being discussed for the near future by some, are taking you down to the level of the worst countries that you have criticised for their own laws.

          Take your extreme views back to your journal please where we can all politely ignore them.

          • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday January 25, @12:13PM (9 children)

            by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @12:13PM (#1288515) Homepage Journal

            I cannot believe that you just wrote that!

            LOL, right back at you!

            If homosexuals or adulterers don't want to be subjected to foreign laws then they should not visit those countries.

            What you seem to be saying is, all homosexuals and all adulterers are born American citizens. There are no homos in Bangladesh, and no adulterers in Zimbabwe. The only homos or adulterers ever found in Saudi Arabia were American tourists on holiday.

            And, janrinok? Just piss off with your "extreme views" bullshit. Unless you wrote the above post while you were drunk? If so, then as a privileged white guy, I guess you'll have to be forgiven when you sober up.

            --
            Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
            • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Wednesday January 25, @12:36PM (1 child)

              by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @12:36PM (#1288516) Journal

              I suggested how I think that such countries should be handled:

              Don't do business with them. Do not support them. Maintain political dialogue, try to change their views by persuasion and education, but stop there.

              I think that you fail to read the bits that you do not like. I didn't name any specific country, I simply replied to your statement >"Perhaps we've forgotten that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death on some countries".

              I don't think Saudi Arabia needs mentioning specifically - so I didn't.

            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday January 26, @07:18AM (6 children)

              by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday January 26, @07:18AM (#1288664) Journal

              You did the thing again. You know, the thing? Where you accidentally reveal way, way more about yourself than you intended to? Jan's right, take this shit back to your little playpen and leave the adults in the room alone.

              --
              I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
              • (Score: 0, Troll) by Runaway1956 on Thursday January 26, @01:52PM (5 children)

                by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 26, @01:52PM (#1288696) Homepage Journal

                For an idiot, you sure display some idiot tendencies. You always choose to read anything I write filtered through your preconceived notions about what I think and what I believe. Try going back and reading my posts in this thread, bearing in mind that we are discussing a global problem. None of these issues are unique to the United States, they are global. When compared to a nation that puts people to death for homosexuality, adultery, or a myriad of real or imagined offenses against the state, America's abortion issues are petty bullshit. Think outside of your New York box.

                --
                Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
                • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, @02:45PM (2 children)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, @02:45PM (#1288700)

                  Let's turn Runaway's logic against him:

                  Perhaps we've forgotten that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death on some countries? And, that Google will respond to warrants from police forces in foreign nations? If we are going to key on private data that might result in a prosecutor bringing charges, wouldn't it be better to key on data that reveals sexual proclivities? Oh - adultery can result in execution in some countries, notably, adulterous women in Islamic countries. More sexual proclivities that need to be protected.

                  Restrictions on assault weapons and waiting periods to purchase guns? First world problems of privileged gun nuts. But, that's what gets people's attention.

                  Perhaps the police ought to start getting vague warrants to get businesses like Facebook and Google to turn over communications about purchases of guns and ammo. This has already happened in at least one case with abortion: https://www.npr.org/2022/08/11/1117015479/nebraska-abortion-case-underscores-how-evidence-from-online-services-is-now-fair [npr.org] and https://www.npr.org/2022/08/12/1117092169/nebraska-cops-used-facebook-messages-to-investigate-an-alleged-illegal-abortion [npr.org].

                  If you're unconcerned with tracking as it relates to purchases of abortion pills, that you shouldn't be concerned about tracking as it relates to gun sales, either. Therefore, we should expect you to dismiss objections to credit card companies tracking gun sales as described at https://www.npr.org/2022/09/11/1122261276/visa-mastercard-american-express-gun-sales [npr.org] as mere first world problems.

                  To reveal Runaway's hypocrisy on abortion, just replace it with gun control. Watch as his tune changes dramatically and he does mental gymnastics to justify why guns are somehow different. Because Runaway has repeatedly said we should institute abortion laws in the United States that mirror those in Europe, I'm sure he won't mind if we also implement Europe's gun laws as well.

                  By the way, Runaway, your original point actually had some validity. Data collection from the websites of online pharmacies and drug stores could be used to identify and discriminate against people with disabilities, for example. That is a valid concern because people with disabilities do face very real discrimination despite laws like the ADA. Many employers certainly discriminate against people with disabilities and want to avoid providing accommodations, which is why it is considerably more difficult for disabled people to find jobs. Instead of offering something like that as a rebuttal against sjames' comment, you instead posted drivel about first world problems.

                  • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Friday January 27, @03:24AM (1 child)

                    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 27, @03:24AM (#1288843) Homepage Journal

                    *yawn*

                    Go back and read all of what I wrote. I object to data collection, full stop. My complaint is that other people are objecting to some very specific data collection, because they can't understand that data is data.

                    Need an analogy? Take your simple, every day vacuum cleaner. It sucks up whatever gets in front of the nozzle, assuming it will fit through the nozzle. The vacuum doesn't distinguish between organic particles, inorganic, natural or synthetic compounds, living or dead tissue. It sucks up everything that a few pounds of vacuum is capable of moving.

                    That's Google. They suck up everything.

                    I want the vacuum cleaner shut down. Most of you who argue with me just want to put some kind of special filter on the nozzle, so it doesn't suck up YOUR information.

                    Oh, since you brought the subject up, ATF does indeed track weapons and ammo sales. They have a file on every single new gun purchase, they have a file on flash suppresors, silencers, bulk ammo sales, "bump stocks", recievers, and more. They even have files on any sort of a cannister that might be converted into a silencer. Oh, yes, you better believe the ATF maintains surveillance of people with weapons.

                    I'm asking that it all be shut down. It's none of government's business who had an abortion, who is sleeping with whom, who has guns, or who vacations where, or that you are a furry. None of their business.

                    Be honest, read my original post again, and ask yourself whether I have substantially changed anything that I've written in this post.

                    --
                    Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
                    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, @04:09AM

                      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, @04:09AM (#1288851)

                      Your original post was modded up to +5. You received six insightful mods for saying that all the data collection needs to stop. People gave you the benefit of the doubt that you weren't trying to manufacture political controversy and were posting in good faith.

                      Nobody here is saying that the data collection should continue except for so-called special cases. If anything, the audience of this site is more privacy-minded than the general population, and there would be near unanimous agreement on stopping all data collection from companies like Google and Meta. Saying that online pharmacies should stop sharing this data is not tantamount to giving tacit approval for other companies to share the data. Your argument is based on the straw man logical fallacy, and you are trolling. Here is the final paragraph of the Ars Technica article:

                      “Web developers may not have thought they were putting their users at risk by using Google Analytics and other third-party trackers,” Quintin said. “But with the current political climate, all websites, but especially websites with at-risk users, need to consider that helping Google, Facebook, and others build up records of user behavior could have a potentially horrific outcome. You can't keep acting like Roe is still the law of the land.”

                      That explicitly contradicts your straw man argument. Your are trolling for the purpose of inciting a political argument.

                      This is not about special cases. It is about demonstrating the severity of the harm done by this tracking, to reinforce why it needs to be stopped. If you want to convince people of the damage caused by the tracking, it's going to be most compelling to present examples where the tracking causes the most damage. Nowhere did it say that this is the only situation where people are seriously harmed by companies like Google and Meta tracking people.

                      Stop trolling. Stop trying to manufacture controversy. Like janrinok told you, keep the flamebait in your journal instead of shitting all over stories. People gave you the benefit of the doubt with your initial post. You no longer deserve the assumption of good faith after your subsequent shitposts.

                • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Friday January 27, @01:43AM (1 child)

                  by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Friday January 27, @01:43AM (#1288832) Journal

                  Your fallacy is the Fallacy of Relative Privation.

                  --
                  I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
                  • (Score: 0, Redundant) by Runaway1956 on Friday January 27, @03:26AM

                    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 27, @03:26AM (#1288846) Homepage Journal

                    You should try to keep up. Read the post just above ^ that I responded to AC.

                    --
                    Don’t confuse the news with the truth.
        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday January 26, @12:25AM

          by sjames (2882) on Thursday January 26, @12:25AM (#1288619) Journal

          Next up, legally prevent Google from responding to such warrants. It's up to them to decide if they can come up with a legal workaround or just not have physical offices in those countries.

          Since the GOP has no stake in those warrants and generally doesn't like anything outside of the U.S. anyway, that should be politically feasible.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday January 25, @03:42PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @03:42PM (#1288542) Journal

    What if abortion pills were allowed to be sold over the counter in certain states? (Could states even do that?)

    There certainly are risks. This is not aspirin we're talking about. But of course there are risks to pregnancy also. Including even death.

    However if guns can be bought and traded without any kind of registration or tracking, are abortion pills any more dangerous than guns? If guns can cross state lines without documentation or regulation, then why can't women cross state lines for their own reasons? Are abortions so much worse than mass shootings?

    It is amusing that other developed countries don't have these problems.

    --
    Scissors come in consumer packaging that cannot be opened without scissors.
  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday January 25, @07:54PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @07:54PM (#1288584) Journal

    New Lawsuit Challenges State Bans on Abortion Pills [nytimes.com]

    The case, brought by GenBioPro, a company that makes one of two abortion drugs, argues that it is unconstitutional for a state to bar access to a medication approved by the federal government.

    A company that makes an abortion pill filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning challenging the constitutionality of a state ban on the medication, one in what is expected to be a wave of cases arguing that the federal Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the pill takes precedence over such restrictive state laws.

    Can patients use the pill correctly if they are unable to use the Morning After pill correctly? "But doctor! I took the emergency contraceptive but she still got pregnant anyway! Can I get the abortion pill in a red state?"

    --
    Scissors come in consumer packaging that cannot be opened without scissors.
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