An Ugly Consequence When Abortion and Big Data Collide
Every decision carries a consequence. Economists call it an opportunity cost. Politicians often simply call it an opportunity. Parents sometimes call it grounds for punishment.
Whatever it’s called by whomever it’s called, the fact is that every single decision we make sets us down a new path, a new timeline, a new reality wholly separate from the one we would have experienced if we’d made a different decision.
When it comes to the Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion that overturned Roe v. Wade, the consequences obviously are still being discovered, and there are some that should cause concern and lead you to make some decisions of your own.
As the spouse of a true-crime junkie, I have heard countless stories of killers whose true intentions were uncovered based on internet searches for how to get away with murder or the best ways to dispose of a body. Casey Anthony, in my opinion, got away with murdering her child because it wasn’t discovered until after the trial that she’d searched for “fool-proof suffocation,” thanks to a buffoon of a forensic investigator who looked only at her Internet Explorer (RIP) history and not her Mozilla Firefox history.
Knowing that let’s talk about the now-crime of abortion.
- Anything you search for and/or post anywhere can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You can post something to just your “friends” and still have it used against you in a court of law.
- You can delete a post and still have it be used against you in a court of law.
- You can delete an account — or all your accounts — and still have it be used against you in a court of law.
- You can never go on the internet again and still have your time as an internet-enabled superstar be used against you in a court of law.
- Facebook, Google, Bing, Mozilla, Amazon, Apple and all the much less well-known data trafficking companies that provide them their product — you and your information — couldn’t care less about you as a person and gladly have provided prosecutors/the government whatever they asking for when it comes to humans’ use of their technology. You are a commodity, and if the government comes calling, they will sell you out.
We all can acknowledge that, Supreme Court decision or no Supreme Court decision, abortions are going to continue in the United States. Even if all 50 state governments outlaw it, history tells us abortions will continue here, the same as they did before Roe v. Wade, the same way drugs are still bought and sold everyday despite our oh-so-effective War against them, the same way murder still occurs in states in which the government will kill you if you do so.
That means women are going to need covert abortion providers. Word of mouth will help, but the internet is still going to be the go-to vehicle to find the best possible option.
Say you find yourself in a situation with a pregnancy you’d rather not see through to delivery. You Google (or Bing) “safe abortion providers near me.”
- You have now just left digital evidence of your intent to commit a crime.
So when that doctor’s office is raided or if you’re followed by some right-wing zealot and turned over to the gestapo, err, police, you can and will be prosecuted, and your search history can and will be used against you in a court of law. Google can be hit with a subpoena for your search history if you’ve deleted it off your computer, and they will comply.
But it gets worse.
Here’s a real-world scenario: Say your pregnancy is going fine. You planned for this child and want this child more than anything in the world. You post about your pregnancy on Facebook. You’re searching for baby names on Google. You’re buying diapers and onesies on Amazon. Your photos of your little poochy belly are on your iPhone.
And then, at your 20-week ultrasound, you find out the child’s heart is no longer beating. The doctors find out about the underlying condition that caused this and tells you that your body will eventually go through the process of labor, but if you wait and that happens at home, you have a 90% chance of dying.
So you seek out what medically and legally would be called an abortion and, unless something changes, you’ve just committed a crime.
Enter the same right-wing zealot.
You’ve left evidence all over the place — Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple, to name a few. All have shown no qualms about turning over user data to authorities who ask for it.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions, some of the biggest tech companies issued altruistic proclamations stating their support of women. Meta (Facebook’s newly created alter ego when things got a little too hot for it) and Google said they will cover the cost of out-of-state travel for their employees who have to seek bluer places to have an abortion.
Yet none of these companies has yet to speak up about how they’re going to handle your data. If you think their public statements of support for their employees are an indication of what they would do for you, you’re kidding yourself. You are not a person. You’re a product. You’ve been sold to so many businesses over the past decade and have absolutely no idea exactly who owns you.
Some of those buyers, you might be cool with. I don’t mind the fact that I get targeted ads for witty T-shirts because I love witty T-shirts and, much to my wife’s dismay, am always looking for new ones.
But others you might find a bit more objectionable. Was I happy when I found out the data from the app we used to be able to locate my teen child was sold to whomever wanted to buy it — including his specific locations at specific times, thus giving anyone who wanted to do ill to a child information to help determine his patterns and habits? Absolutely not.
Similarly, you might not be happy to know that your health insurer can (and does) track individual visitor’s website sessions and records their trips to its site to watch how they scroll and what they click on. How do I know this happens? I worked for a company that did it under the guise of website improvements. That was bad enough before it became potential evidence to search for things like “pregnancy care coverage.” Had that company been hit was a subpoena, would it fight it? Be able to successfully fight it? Hardly.
When you start to look at yourself how these data companies look at you — as a product, not a person — then you can see how completely illogical it is to believe they wouldn’t provide whatever they have about you to whatever authority asks for it. You’re evidence, not a human being.
I imagine the Supreme Court justices weren’t thinking about this when those in the majority wrote their opinion.
Which circles us back to where we started: Every decision carries consequences. I don’t care whether it’s “Should I chew this piece of gum right now or not?” If you decide “yes,” life is different going forward in some way from if you’d said “no.” Some of these consequences are so small as to be insignificant.
This one isn’t insignificant.
I’ve already written about why you should delete all your social media accounts right now, and this certainly hasn’t changed that opinion. I fully acknowledge I haven’t taken my own advice. I have my reasons. Everyone has their reasons. In the end, those reasons don’t change the central point: What’s going on with Big Data is bad.
If you’re a woman of child-bearing age, if you are related to women who are or will be child-bearing age, if you’re remotely connected — digitally or IRL — to anyone anywhere who might now or someday be of child-bearing age, you have good reason to step back and think about the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision and how it relates to your digital footprint.
Big Brother is watching and keeping records.
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