Julia Angwin writes:
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s jaw-dropping ruling overturning constitutional protections for abortion in the United States, there’s been a lot of discussion about how to keep data about pregnant people private.
Google announced, for instance, that it would remove sensitive locations, such as abortion clinics, from the location data it stores about users of its Android phones. Many people—including me in this newsletter—worried about whether they or their loved ones should delete their period-tracking apps.
But as Vox reporter Sara Morrison wisely observed, “[D]eleting a period tracker app is like taking a teaspoon of water out of the ocean.” So much data is collected about people these days that removing a small amount of data from an app or a phone is not going to erase all traces of a newly criminalized activity.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that pregnant people are far more likely to be turned over to law enforcement by hospital staff, a partner or a family member than by data in an app —and that the types of digital evidence used to indict people are often text messages, emails, and web search queries.
So how do you protect yourself in a world of relentless surveillance? This seems like a good time to go back to the basics and understand what privacy is and why we seek it. Because it’s not just people fearing arrest who need it, but all of us.
And so this week, I turned to an expert on this topic, Neil Richards, Koch Distinguished Professor in Law at Washington University, in St. Louis. Richards is the author of two seminal privacy books: “Why Privacy Matters” (Oxford Press, 2022) and “Intellectual Privacy” (Oxford Press, 2015). He also serves on the board of the Future of Privacy Forum and the Electronic Privacy Information Center and is a member of the American Law Institute. He served as a law clerk to William H. Rehnquist, former chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Read Julia’s conversation with Neil Richards at The Markup.