31 Aug Why Data Privacy will Become Everyone’s Problem Soon
Clara had just had a brief argument with her husband, Chris, about her whereabouts during the day, so she decided to show him her location history for the day with some pictures of friends she hung out with after leaving the hospital. Upon checking, she noticed something was missing, but she couldn’t figure it out. After about two minutes, she said, “oh, I was at the hospital today for my routine checkup, but I don’t know why it’s not showing in my location history.” Even though the husband could not grasp what happened, they both concluded that it must have been some network glitches or an error from google.
Later that week, there was a discussion in Chris’ office about the Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson decision on the right to abortion and how it has spurred a Data Privacy push among companies. They discussed how a lot of the big tech companies, especially Google, have made the handling of personal data a more urgent subject. Google has adopted a new policy: From now on, when people visit certain medical facilities- “Counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics”- Google will promptly delete those stops from the user’s location history.
That was when Chris realized why Clara could not find the hospital visit in her location history the other day.
Here is how things are playing out; people are beginning to delete period apps, and other apps used to track their reproductive health. They are also extra-conscious about whom or what tool could monitor their trips to medical facilities, especially concerning their reproductive health. But is this the solution? Well, evading digital surveillance will be almost impossible without changes to privacy regulations.
In response to the perceived threat of subpoena requests, companies that provide healthcare and healthcare-related services to women may also reexamine how they document reproductive health services. Some providers may avoid creating records indicating a patient was considering an abortion to the extent not required by law or contract. App developers might refine the information they collect and store through their applications. Their data retention policies limit the information they retain that could reveal that a user sought or received reproductive health services if they received an enforceable subpoena or other law enforcement request. Healthcare providers and app developers should work closely with their legal counsel to examine proposed data minimization practices to ensure such methods’ effectiveness, confirming that they comply with federal or state medical record and document retention laws and sufficiently and accurately document services rendered for billing purposes.
As regulations evolve and internet access becomes as ubiquitous as electricity, data privacy will be at the forefront of every interaction, and data privacy ultimately becomes everyone’s business. But are we limiting the data privacy struggle to medical purposes? Definitely not.