Data brokers ease pressure to stop collecting information about pregnant people

But in the absence of a federal data privacy law or any prospect of getting the support needed to pass it, many brokers are not paying attention.

Politico found more than 30 listings from data brokers providing information on expecting parents or selling access to those in need via mass email explosions. Twenty-five of them were updated after the Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade on 24 June.

Accurate Data, a data broker that provides the names, email and mailing addresses of more than 23,000 expectant parents, recently updated its inventory as of Aug. PK List Marketing has also done its “She’s Having a Baby – Prenatal Mailing ListOn August 1, according to its listing on Nextmark, a directory of marketing email lists.

Nextmark CEO Joe Peach said he didn’t see any problems hosting these lists.

“As far as I know, today there is no law that prohibits prenatal mailing lists. If this were to change and this type of data became illegal, we would work with providers to remove these listings. Will do,” Pitch said. NextMark itself does not collect or sell any data. Neither PK List Marketing nor Exact Data responded to requests for comment.

Abortion rights groups and lawmakers in their favor argue that this information has become dangerous, putting pregnant people at risk of prosecution if they want an abortion or even if they seek fertility care that is perceived as doing so. can go.

“For a data broker to bury his head in the sand and pretend his business of tracking pregnancies and selling that information for profit will not be weaponized by far-right extremists, it is shockingly non-existent,” Sen said. – Responsible.” ron wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced My Body, My Data Act of 2022 to limit reproductive health data collection, said in an email.

The risk is not imaginary. police Have used digital evidence such as text messages and search history To enforce abortion laws in the past. In 2015, Indiana prosecutors used a woman’s online search history as evidence to prove that she illegally induced her abortion. he was convicted of feticide,

Data brokers collecting data on pregnant people say they get this information from sources such as online activities, surveys, magazine subscriptions and purchases from businesses such as maternity clothing stores. The privacy policies of multiple data brokers state that they will share data with law enforcement in response to warrants.

MPs have had a handful of successes with their pressure campaigns. data broker secure graph And Vice Articles stopped providing data on abortion clinics around the US after disclosing their practices and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) companies called, Tech companies like Google have responded by vowing to remove location data logs from abortion clinics,

But shame is the main tool at their disposal, and it’s hard to run when it’s a data broker industry. made up of hundreds of smaller companies which are not widely known. This is especially true of data on pregnant people, as one of the biggest players, Experian, has stopped offering such dataset in 2016. Experian did not explain why it stopped offering this dataset.

Justin Sherman, who runs the Data Brokerage Research Project at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said, “When companies and their executives are called by name — in the media, online, and especially by members of Congress — they get more attention. Huh.” , “At the same time, data brokers are under no illusions about the possibility of Congress passing privacy regulations too soon.”

Lawmakers have tried and failed to pass data privacy rules for years. Congress has made progress on the bipartisan bill in recent months, american data privacy and protection actwhich was passed by the committee on 21st July. But he did not get the support of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, making it unlikely to pass.

Cantwell has argued that the Bill Lack of strong enforcement measuresand is upholding its own law, Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act,

And two bills introduced specifically to block the collection of health-related data are backed by only a handful of Democrats and are not expected to garner widespread support.

In July, Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) said it wants to identify and send letters to any entity that collects, uses, sells or discloses data that could be used against pregnant people.

“At a minimum, these companies should stop collecting or receiving sensitive data such as reproductive health data,” Trahan said in an email. His message to companies: “Stop putting your bottom line above everything else.”

Precise Data sells a dataset for $2,786 with contact information such as names, emails and mailing addresses expecting up to 23,217 parents. Medicoreach sells similar raw data on pregnant women, With location, age and income. Medicoreach also did not respond to a request for comment.

Like this The datasets provide important insights on thousands of expectant parents, including purchase history, the states they live in, and when they are expected to give birth. While all of that information is useful to a marketer, it can be used to identify people who terminate their pregnancies in states with abortion bans — or who allegedly engage in risky behavior that officials do. can be blamed for the death of the fetus.

Complete medical lists, for example, Provides a mailing list With over 585,000 mailing addresses and 185,593 email addresses for expectant parents. Data from people from 10 states where abortion is banned accounts for about half of the dataset.

Tim Burnell, owner of Complete Medical Lists, shrugs off the idea that it could be dangerous.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where a law enforcement agency could, essentially, get a subpoena for every self-reported new pregnancy in the US,” Burnell said.

reach marketing Provides a mailing listBoasting a collection of 818,000 expectant moms, it’s packed with data on when they’re expected to give birth, as well as information like their purchase history.

They both do not sell the data they collect and only offer tailored email blasts, but their collection may be available to law enforcement agencies. Reach Marketing’s Privacy Policy Note that the company may provide data to law enforcement agencies upon request. Complete Medical Lists’ also privacy policy says it will share data in response to warrants.

The level of detail in these lists can be added in dangerous ways, the lawmakers argue. A prosecutor in a state where abortion is illegal may submit data on pregnant people in the state, and combine that with location data from a different data broker to show that a person traveled to an abortion clinic across state lines. , For example.

“Americans can’t trust data brokers to keep their most personal information private — and that puts women at risk,” said Warren, who called for a ban on data brokers from selling health data. introduced a bill. health and location data protection act,

Representative Anna Eshu (D-California.), Joe introduced a bill Companies that banned targeted advertising in January have called for a complete stop collecting data on women’s health.

“Data brokers and all companies that collect personal data have an obligation to ensure that intimate data about women’s health isn’t collected in the first place, which could lead to prosecutors in states trying to decriminalize abortion,” Ishoo said in an email. Allows it to be used against women.”

The data brokers who have stopped have not given clear reasons. said it was not in the company’s “business interests” To provide information about Planned Parenthood clinics, While SafeGraph was not Give a reason why it has stopped selling those location insights.

In general, data brokers argue that their tools are a beneficial resource for pregnant people. Nextmark’s pitch notes that the company’s mailing lists help new parents get discounts on necessities like diapers and baby formula.

And some advocates of the email lists say they will not allow those lists to be used to campaign against or against abortion rights.

Josephine Messina, vice president of direct marketing services with Reach Marketing, said the company would have to approve all email blasts, and would not allow ads for abortion pills or crisis pregnancy centers, clinics that abortion rights opponents use to offer pregnant advice. People against abortion have been set up for

Burnell said that full medical listings require the same approval as for email blasts and that such advocacy ads would also not be approved. He said the company has no plans to stop any of its data collection on pregnant people, but that could change if they are being used to target people seeking abortions.

“Should any organization attempt to weaponize the marketing list, we will certainly reconsider,” he said.

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