On June 24 of this year, the United States Supreme Court overturned the 50-year precedent of Americans’ right to have an abortion in Dobbs v Jackson. With this ruling, each state will now be able to decide its laws concerning how abortion rights will be allowed or restricted for its citizens, as well as determine if helping someone obtain an abortion will be considered a crime.
With this ruling, protecting your online privacy just became much more important.
Your Constitutional Right to Privacy Means Protecting Your Online Privacy
Our constitutional right to privacy was the reason that the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that abortion should be legal 50 years ago. Fifty years later, our right to privacy looks quite different, and largely depends on our digital privacy. Ensuring that we have our digital privacy protected means that we need to understand how companies collect and store data about us, and how that data might be used by law enforcement in states where abortiion is now or will be illegal.
Right now, there are 34 states where the right to an abortion is in flux. So it’s important for anyone who lives in those states who might be considering an abortion to ensure that they take all the steps they can to protect their online privacy. Keep in mind that everything you do online leaves a digital trail, and that law enforcement can subpoena this information and can use this against you in court.
The most important thing you can do to keep your digital information private is to download a VPN right now, such as Private WiFi, for all of your devices. Private WiFi encrypts everything you do on the Internet and prevents your ISP from viewing the sites you visit.
Read on to find out what data companies collect on your and other ways you can protect your online privacy.
What Data Companies Collect About You
Online companies, such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter, collect a lot of information about you. This data collection is largely unchecked, as the U.S. does not have any federal privacy laws that protect our online privacy.
So what data are they collecting on you? Here is a partial list:
- Name, phone number, and email address
- IP address
- Search history
- Document and video uploads
- Devices used
- Apps used
Also, any apps and even browsers you use may collect this information as well. Any of this information could be subpoenaed by law enforcement, which means that anything you do online could be used against you in court.
Ways to Protect Your Privacy Online
Below are some steps you can take to ensure your online privacy and security.
- Use a search engine like DuckDuckGo – Some search engines like Google collect a lot of personal data on you. DuckDuckGo collects no information on your search history.
- Don’t track your period on period apps – Many period apps collect your data, and then turn around and sell it. Even if they don’t, period-tracking data could become a target for law enforcement. So better to be safe than sorry. If you are living in a state which has criminalized abortion, your best bet is to delete any period apps and use a paper calendar instead.
- Turn off location sharing on your mobile devices – Some of the apps you use might be tracking your location. If you are using an iOS device, you can turn this off by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Turn off location sharing. On Android, go to Settings > Personal > Location Access > Turn off access to my location.
- Use a VPN like Private WiFi – Using a VPN like Private WiFi on all of your devices is the best way to mask what you do online. Private WiFi encrypts the connection and routes your connection through the VPN’s server. This encryption prevents your ISP from seeing what you’re doing online. So if they’re subpoenaed by law enforcement, they have no incriminating evidence about you.
It’s a confusing and scary time as abortion rights are rolled back in the United States. Many states have banned abortion outright, and many more will most likely enact full or partial abortion bans. People seeking abortions, and people helping women seek abortions, who live in areas with abortion restrictions should be very, very careful with their online digital trail.
More than ever, it’s now up to us to take the steps necessary to protect our online privacy.