Understanding Law Enforcement's Use of User Data

Systems intended for ad targeting and UX optimization have become useful to law enforcement. This Context Check examines how that works and why.

Unexpected Systems Acquire User Data

A Mozilla report found that mental health and prayer apps have particularly bad data privacy protections. The apps suck up personal information and have vague privacy policies.

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As period tracker apps grow in popularity, so do concerns about what happens to the very personal information they share. Consumer Reports explains how to stay safe.

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Pregnancy-tracking apps such as Ovia have climbed in popularity as fun, friendly companions for the daunting uncertainties of childbirth. But they have also become powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers.


A growing and unregulated trend of online surveillance raises concerns for civil rights and liberties.


The Markup identified 107 apps that sold data to X‑Mode in 2018 and 2019


While I think we can all agree that every app on our phone is probably an invasive little shit, I’d argue that weather apps deserve their own little corner in hell. We’ve seen weather apps sign folks up for services without their say-so, sneakily get location data from users who deliberately turned that function off,…

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Seemingly simple mobile games made us all way too comfortable with giving away our personal information.

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If your algorithms are smart enough to realize that I was pregnant, or that I’ve given birth, then surely they can be smart enough to realize that my baby died, and advertise to me accordingly — or maybe, just maybe, not at all.


A surprising number of the top 100,000 websites effectively include keyloggers that covertly snag everything you type into a form.

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Tools used to find child abuse material could be wielded in the US to protect “unborn children” if the EU bans end-to-end encryption.

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The social media giant gathers data from crisis pregnancy centers through a tracking tool that works whether or not a person is logged in to their Facebook account

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Personal information from reviewers was also exposed until The Markup’s inquiry

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Founder of fastlane.tools


The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against data broker Kochava Inc.


Even a burner phone paid for with cash can reveal your identity and where you’ve been. A data privacy expert explains.


How ad tech companies (and the marketers and publishers that enable them) use our most sensitive, personal information against cancer victims and their families.


Data Brokers

It costs just over $160 to get a week's worth of data on where people who visited Planned Parenthood came from, and where they went afterwards.


Data brokers have tried to improve their public image and address privacy concerns by sharing location records with public health agencies.


These firms could track whether you've visited your therapist's office or your ex's house. And without regulation, they're a threat to democracy.

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Policymakers have paid scant consideration to the national security implications of unfettered, largely unregulated data brokering. That may be changing.


Police are using data brokers and app location data to surveil people in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


Danielle McNamara


The family safety company was approached by regulators about its data sales


The case suggests this loosely regulated industry can’t deliver on its promises of privacy


Researchers said it was "trivial" to identify users and view their browsing habits in purchased 'anonymous' browsing data.


Unique IDs linked to phones are supposed to be anonymous. But there’s an entire industry that links them to real people and their address.


When most of us think of how the concept of “data” has been skewered by the press, we’re probably thinking about an app’s location data tipping off our home address, or apps like Grindr tipping advertisers off about our sexuality. What’s less scrutinized, both by the public and by those in public office, is data that’s…

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Gizmodo identified 32 brokers selling data on 2.9 billion profiles of U.S. residents pegged as "actively pregnant" or "shopping for maternity products."

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How Law Enforcement Acquires Your Data

This report was also authored by Carey Shenkman, an independent consultant and Human Rights Attorney. Introduction Typically, government agencies seeking access to the personal electronic data of Americans must comply with a legal process to obtain that data. That process can be mandated by the Constitution (the Fourth Amendment’s warrant and probable cause requirement) or […]


Upturn advances equity and justice in the design, governance, and use of technology.


'It’s just a question of, one, is it ethical, and two, does that open up the information to being released elsewhere?,' a former Venntel worker told Motherboard.


A hack using a forged legal request that exposed consumer data collected by Apple and Meta shed light on the reach of the law

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A new bill known as the Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act would seal up a loophole that intelligence and law enforcement agencies use to obtain troves of sensitive and identifying information to which they wouldn’t otherwise have legal access. The new legislation, proposed by Senators Ron …

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A Muslim prayer app with over 98 million downloads is one of the apps connected to a wide-ranging supply chain that sends ordinary people's personal data to brokers, contractors, and the military.


ICE emails provide a rare inside look at the agency’s use of Facebook and commercial data brokers to track down an immigrant in California.

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The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has opened an investigation into how data broker Venntel collects and sells data from Americans’ mobile phones to government agencies.

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Newly released documents showed the CDC planned to use phone location data to monitor schools and churches, and wanted to use the data for many non-COVID-19 purposes, too.


Right now, there’s a good chance your digital life is multitudes bigger than it was just a few months ago. Over time, the global coronavirus pandemic has turned a lot of us—or at least everyone I know—into the type of person who dates digitally, mourns digitally, and attends everything from church to support groups…

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“Autonomous vehicles are recording their surroundings continuously and have the potential to help with investigative leads,” an internal training document states.


One of two American adults is in a law enforcement face recognition database. An investigation.


A period tracker app probably won’t tell authorities if you’ve had an abortion, but other data will.

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The data privacy risks associated with abortion aren’t hypothetical. Cases around the world show how a digital trail can become evidence.


Ten states where ending a pregnancy is now illegal have sent the search giant more than 5,700 demands for location tracking data since 2018 — showing the data's potential usefulness to authorities enforcing abortion bans.


A Nebraska teenager is facing criminal charges alleging she aborted a fetus in violation of state law, after authorities obtained her Facebook messages using a search warrant.

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Brokers say a potential privacy bill could hamper their work with law enforcement and overly restrict their industry.


A data broker has been selling raw location data about individual people to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, EFF has learned. This personal data isn’t gathered from cell phone towers or tech giants like Google — it’s obtained by the broker via thousands of different apps on Android and iOS app stores as part of the larger location data marketplace.


Local law enforcement agencies from suburban Southern California to rural North Carolina have been using an obscure cellphone tracking tool, at times without search warrants, that gives them the power to follow people’s movements months back in time, according to public records and internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.

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U.S. government officials are adding data from as many as 10,000 electronic devices each year to a massive database they’ve compiled from travelers' devices.


A new report by a conservative think-tank raises privacy concerns as the organization tracks thousands of mobile devices belonging to newly arrived migrants at NGO and U.S. government facilities.

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Rather than obtaining a warrant, the bureau purchased sensitive data—a controversial practice that privacy advocates say is deeply problematic.

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Your tax dollars are going to data brokers.


The “Augury” platform includes highly sensitive network data that Team Cymru, a private company, is selling to the military. “It’s everything. There’s nothing else to capture except the smell of electricity,” one cybersecurity expert said.


Findings of a congressional inquiry raise privacy concerns as some states seek to criminalize abortion.


Anti-choice Activists and Bounties

Body cams and license plates are already being used to track people arriving at abortion clinics.


Inside the Extreme Effort to Punish Women for Abortion

Abortion and User Data

Self-managed abortion (SMA) with pills is very medically safe and effective throughout early pregnancy, but there is a significant risk of criminalization in many U.S. states. While it is impossible to fully eliminate the risk of criminalization when having or planning to have an abortion at home, t


When it comes to reproductive rights, your digital trail matters more than you think.

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Internet searches, visits to clinics and period-tracking apps leave a digital trail.

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For little more than $160, SafeGraph peddled the private data of people who go to abortion clinics, VICE reports.

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Sen. Ron Wyden said shady data practices put the 'lives and essential rights of women' at risk.

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Placer.ai allowed anyone to freely create an account and start using its visualized data to see where visitors to Planned Parenthood facilities approximately live.


The digital platforms people rely on to access or learn about abortion are also being wielded to spy on and punish them.

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Experts say smartphone data could be used to monitor people seeking abortions.


Consumer Reports evaluated period tracker apps to find out how well they protect your privacy. The data the apps collect could be used against you in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

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Jia Tolentino writes about the overturning of Roe v. Wade after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, the future for abortion rights, and the importance of reproductive justice.

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“We’re going to keep doing this work no matter how bad it gets because it’s a matter of life and death”


Anti-Abortion Centers Find Pregnant Teens Online, Then Save Their Data

Now that abortion is illegal for millions, firms such as Amazon, Facebook and Google are reckoning with the prospect of data requests on users for prosecutions.


Court records reveal how police in the U.S. use text messages, emails, search history to prosecute people seeking abortions.


Social-media sites are inundated with police requests for user data and may cooperate even if not legally required to, one legal expert told Insider.

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A Wisconsin group used precise geolocation data until last year to direct ads to women it suspected of seeking abortions.

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Her mother, who faces up to five years in jail, was charged after her private Facebook messages with her daughter were obtained by the police.

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Fighting Back

For the thousands of people protesting and reporting on George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department—or even for bystanders caught up in the demonstrations—arrests, injuries, and even death are becoming commonplace in this moment. And just like protests we’ve experienced within the past decade

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Tips, tools and techniques to keep you and your community safe while fighting for the right to reproductive healthcare. If you or someone you know is concerned about unwanted data collection while navigating online resources, providing or seeking services, or organizing with others, here is a list of guides to stay safe while doing so.


Keep Your Abortion Private & SecureWe’re happy you’re here to learn more about digital security & abortion!


At some point, everyone reaches a limit where they can no longer sit back and stay silent about injustice in the world. However, if you do plan on attending a protest—even a peaceful one—there are some important precautions you should take with your phone before you go.

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Legislation deputizing people to find, sue, and collect damages from anyone who tries to help people seeking abortion care creates serious digital privacy and security risks for those involved in abortion access. Patients, their family members and friends, doctors, nurses, clinic staff,...


With a burner phone and some awareness of geofencing, you can conceal yourself from for-profit data brokers who would spy on your health.

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The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has raised urgent questions about the privacy of people seeking reproductive care. State laws that criminalize abortion, and deputize private citizens to sue, create frightening incentives for law enforcement and civilians to seek out private information about patients and the providers who support them.