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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,, 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: 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: [] and [].

        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 [] 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


          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.