Facebook’s involvement in a police investigation targeting a US abortionist and his mother has reignited fears that the platform could be used by conservative states to fight abortions. Earlier this week, media reported that the social media company had provided police with those private messages that helped charge a mother in Nebraska for helping her daughter get an abortion, sparking outrage.
Jessica Burgess, 41, is accused of helping her 17-year-old daughter get an abortion. She is the subject of five charges, one of which is directly linked to a 2010 law in this Midwestern state that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Her daughter faces three counts of concealment and abandonment of a corpse. Both women pleaded not guilty last week, according to reports.
After the US Supreme Court’s ruling to nullify women’s rights activists’ constitutional right to abortion, tech companies warned of the dangers of data accumulated on their users.
Not an isolated case
Facebook’s parent company Meta defended itself on Tuesday, noting that the court’s warrant “doesn’t mention abortion” before the Supreme Court’s Facebook filing. This line of defense “implies that if abortion had been mentioned in the search warrant, the outcome would have been different. But that’s obviously not true,” tweeted Logan Koepke, a researcher who studies the impact of technology specifically on criminal justice. Contacted byAFPThe company highlighted its policy of responding positively to authorities’ requests when “we are required to do so by law.”
Abortion restrictions in the state of Nebraska were enacted long before Roe v. Wade, which has protected access to abortion since 1973. Some 16 U.S. states restrict or ban early-pregnancy abortions.
To many observers, the Nebraska affair may not be an isolated case. “This happens all the time for companies that have a lot of data about people at home and around the world,” says Alexandra Givens of the NGO Center for Democracy and Technology. In the latter step, companies facing legal demands formulated in rules are keen to respond to them. But “companies should at least ensure that a full legal process is required, that warrants are specific and not sweeping, that searches are strictly worded, and that users are warned so they can try to fight them.” , adds Alexandra Givens.
Use an encrypted message
Police asked the judge to order the MET not to disclose the search warrant relating to Ms Burgess’ daughter’s Facebook records, citing the risk of “destroying or altering evidence”. The police officer behind the claim told the court he launched an investigation in late April following concerns that the 17-year-old girl may have given birth prematurely. buried together.
Internet users can use encrypted messaging, for example, to ensure their communications are beyond the reach of authorities, watch out activists. In Meta, the WhatsApp application offers end-to-end encryption, meaning the company cannot access the contents of messages, but this level of privacy is not enabled by default in Facebook Messenger.
“The company never indicated that it would not comply with law enforcement requests when it came to abortion,” recalls Caitlin Seeley George of Fight for the Future, an NGO that defends digital rights. “Users cannot share meta-conversations if they use encrypted messages,” he adds.