Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed comprehensive legislation to prohibit the selling of location and health data as the Supreme Court’s likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade hangs over Washington.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have cosponsored Warren’s Health and Location Protection Act, which would prohibit “data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data.” There are limited restrictions, making the law one of the most outspoken attempts to regulate data transactions.
“Data brokers benefit off millions of people’s location data, posing major hazards to Americans everywhere by selling their most personal data,” Warren said in a statement on Wednesday. “With this radical Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe v. Wade and states attempting to criminalize basic health care, Congress must protect consumers’ sensitive data now more than ever.”
If passed, the measure would provide the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and those who have been harmed by illegal data sales the ability to sue brokers who have broken the law. The Federal Trade Commission would also get an additional $1 billion over the following ten years to help enforce the legislation. According to the bill’s language, the only exclusions are for particular acts protected by HIPAA or the First Amendment.
Following weeks of research outlining how corporations sell the location data of smartphone users who have visited abortion clinics, Motherboard was the first to report on Warren’s plan on Wednesday. Placer.ai, a location data startup, allows users to generate “heat maps” showing where abortion clinic visitors reside, according to Motherboard in May.
“When abortion is banned, internet research on reproductive health care, updating a period-tracking software, or carrying a phone to the doctor’s office might all be used to monitor and punish women throughout the United States.” “It’s uterine surveillance,” Wyden stated in a statement released on Wednesday. “Congress must safeguard Americans’ privacy from far-right lawmakers seeking to regulate women’s bodies.”
Last month, Warren signed a letter, spearheaded by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), asking FTC Chair Lina Khan to explain how the consumer protection agency investigates suspected location tracking abuses and what resources it may require to properly safeguard consumers.