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The Use of Private Online Data in Abortion Cases

By: Matt Hrkac

Court documents recently revealed Facebook messages were used to prove that a woman, who was 17 at the time, took abortion pills to end a pregnancy at 28 weeks despite Nebraska’s 20-week abortion ban. With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade people are increasingly worried about their online data being used as evidence to prosecute them. Even third-party companies like Facebook may be forced to turn over private messages to the government which means people need to be more cautious when handling information on their reproductive health.

We didn’t exist in the kind of surveillance state and surveillance economy that we live in now. Now, states are criminalizing abortion in a world where every single move that we make is tracked by someone. And if that someone is a private party, it’s super easy for any arm of the state to get that information.

Ari Waldman, Professor of Law and Computer Science and WGSS Affiliated Faculty

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(Photo by: Matt Hrkac)

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