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House Oversight opens probe into handling of reproductive health data

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A House committee has launched an investigation into how companies are handling reproductive health data.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) sent separate letters to personal health apps and data broker companies expressing their concerns.

The letters seek information on the potential misuse of sensitive, private data that could be used to invade the privacy of those seeking reproductive health care.

“In an era of unprecedented digital surveillance, the distribution of personal health data further threatens the health, safety, and privacy of people and health care providers across the country,” the letter said.

They further stressed that reproductive health applications, which are known to share information with data brokers and other third parties, have also had recent data privacy concerns.

“Geographic data collected by mobile phones may be used to locate people seeking care at clinics, and search and chat history referring to clinics or medication create digital bread crumbs revealing interest in an abortion,” they added.

The letter addressed to the data brokers also emphasized how this data could also be used by private “bounty hunters” that have been authorized in some states to sue those who provide or obtain abortion care by purchasing location data from data brokers.

The committee has requested companies respond to their request by July 21.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, concerns have arisen over how period and ovulation-tracking apps could potentially be used to prosecute people who seek an abortion, as well as health care workers.

Data from web searches, smartphone location pings and online purchases is easy to access with hardly any safeguards and there are multiple ways that data could travel from people’s personal devices to law enforcement or other groups, The Hill reported.

Period tracking app Flo also recently announced it would launch “anonymous mode” that will allow users to remove personal and identifiable data from the app.

This comes as senators last month introduced legislation targeting the sale of location data by third-party data brokers.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Carolyn Maloney Data brokers House Oversight Committee House Oversight Committee period tracking apps personal data Raja Krishnamoorthi Raja Krishnamoorthi

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