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Senate Democrats call out Apple and Google mobile tracking, warn of abortion-related privacy risks

Senate Democrats call out Apple and Google mobile tracking, warn of abortion-related privacy risks
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Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, Cory Booker and Sara Jacobs are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google for failing to warn consumers of the potential harms they could cause advertising-specific tracking IDs in their mobile operating systems.

“These identifiers have fueled the unregulated data broker market by creating a single piece of information linked to a device that data brokers and their clients can use to link with other data about consumers,” the lawmaker said written in a letter Friday. “This data is purchased or acquired by app developers and online advertisers and may include consumer movements and web browsing activity.”

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While consumers can opt out of tracking, they argue that Apple and Google have “enabled governments and private actors to use ad-tracking systems for their own surveillance, exposing hundreds of millions of Americans to serious data breaches.”

“The FTC should invest in Apple’s and Google’s role in transforming online advertising into an intensive surveillance system that encourages and facilitates the unrestricted collection and ongoing sale of Americans’ personal information,” the letter continues. “These companies have failed to educate consumers about the privacy and security risks associated with using these products.

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The letter places particular emphasis on the potential vulnerability of individuals seeking abortion and other post-natal reproductive health care Supreme Court decision Friday, Roe v. pick up calf.

“Data brokers already sell, license and share the location information of people who visit abortion providers with anyone who has a credit card,” the lawmakers explain. “Prosecutors in states where abortion is becoming illegal will soon be able to obtain warrants for location information on anyone who has visited an abortion provider. Private actors are also incentivized by state bounty laws to prey on women who have obtained an abortion or seek access to location information through shady data brokers.

A Google spokesman told FOX Business that the company “never sells user data” and that Google Play strictly prohibits developers from selling user data.

“The advertising ID was designed to give users more control and give developers a more private way to effectively monetize their apps,” the tech giant added. “Any claims that advertising IDs were created to facilitate data sales are simply false,”

In addition to the option of deleting the advertising ID at any time, Google has rolled out the privacy sandbox on Android to restrict data exchange with third parties. A spokesman for Apple did not immediately respond to FOX Business’s request for comment.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital privacy rights group, advises Internet users concerned about their abortion-related data to carefully review the privacy settings of the services they use and turn off location services for apps they don’t need and encrypted use messaging services.

“Everyone deserves to have strong control over the collection and use of information that they inevitably leave behind in going about their normal activities, such as B. using apps, search engine queries, posting on social media, texting friends and so on,” EFF chief executive Cindy Cohn and legal director Corynne McSherry said in a statement. “But those who seek, provide or facilitate access to abortion must now assume that any data they provide online or offline could be obtained by law enforcement.”

It also suggests that organizations should protect users by allowing anonymous access, stopping behavioral tracking, strengthening data deletion policies, offering end-to-end and in-transit encryption, preventing location tracking, and ensuring that Users are noticed when their data is searched.

In addition, the organization urges federal and state policymakers to pass meaningful privacy laws.

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At least 13 states in the country have so-called “trigger laws” Banning most abortions performed immediately or within weeks of the Roe v. Wade come into effect.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group, these are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, which just passed its trigger into law in April.

There are also five other states — Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — that still have abortion bans for the pre-Roe v. Wade, which comes into effect now that the landmark 1973 law is being repealed.

Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report

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