Planned Parenthood suspends marketing trackers on abortion search pages

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Planned Parenthood said it would remove marketing trackers on its abortion-related search pages and that no protected health information has been breached so far.

The comments came after The Washington Post on Wednesday reported findings from Lockdown Privacy, the maker of an app that blocks online trackers, showing that when visitors used the website’s search function to find an abortion provider and begin scheduling an appointment, Planned Parenthood has shared data about these actions with third-party tracking companies, including Google, Facebook, and TikTok.

In a video shared with The Washington Post, Lockdown founder Johnny Lin visited Planned Parenthood’s website, opened the provider search, entered a zip code, and selected “surgical abortion” as the service. As he clicked through the process, a developer tool allowed him to see how data such as his IP address was shared with Google, Facebook, and many other third-party companies. Only companies would know for sure how they are using our data, but all data hosted on servers is vulnerable to potential cyberattacks or government subpoenas. In a criminal abortion case, an IP address would be relevant, because with the help of internet service providers, law enforcement can trace IP addresses back to individuals.

“Let’s be clear: No planning or protected health information (PHI) was breached,” said Diana Contreras, health care manager at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. in the statement to the Washington Post. “Out of an abundance of caution, Planned Parenthood will suspend marketing pixels on web pages related to abortion research and engage with Meta/Facebook and other technology companies on how their policies can better protect people seeking care. abortion.”

You scheduled an abortion. The Planned Parenthood website might tell Facebook.

Planned Parenthood also said it has a separate tool for scheduling and confirming appointments that it says complies with HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which protects information sensitive health information on patients) and free of marketing follow-ups. He does not consider the information shared with Google and others to be “planning” information, and Contreras added that “this is inadmissible, especially at a time of chaos and confusion following the Court’s decision. supreme to cancel Roe vs. Wadeto spread misinformation and elevate bad actors who bully and deter people from seeking abortion and other sexual and reproductive health services.

The Planned Parenthood statement comes as President Biden is preparing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to expand protections for people seeking abortion information or services, including banning unfair or deceptive data-sharing practices, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Amid fears and questions about how much information healthcare providers and digital data collectors could share about people seeking abortions if requested by state governments, the US Department of Health and Social Services has released new guidelines on how to protect your health information when using an internet-connected device.

It also issued a reminder that HIPAA-covered entities may only share protected health information in narrow circumstances governed by HIPAA’s Privacy Rule – for example, the Privacy Rule “allows but does not require not that Covered Entities disclose an individual’s PHI for law enforcement purposes,” the notice reads. But HIPAA does not cover much of the digital data we share regarding our health, such as our internet searches or data that Planned Parenthood sends to third parties.


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