Internet privacy under siege with abortion rights | CLARENCE PAGE

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After witnessing how much the world seemed to change after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, it’s been amazing – though not too surprising – how hard the world has tried to turn back the clock.

Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the conservative 6-3 majority opinion held that the right to abortion is part of the right to privacy – neither of which is explicitly included in the Constitution, although the right is inferred by the landmark 1965 Griswold v Connecticut, in which Roe v. Wade is largely grounded.

Do you think you have a right to privacy? Guess again.

Giving up the right to privacy has significant and disturbing implications, especially at a time when police and other crime fighters are increasingly turning to internet search engines such as Google for help. . For example, in the new post-Roe world, privacy advocates reasonably ask, is Google doing enough to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands or appearing on the wrong screens?

In response to complaints, Google announced on July 1 that it would cut visits to abortion clinics, as well as visits to fertility clinics, domestic violence shelters and addiction treatment centers, among other sensitive places.

Shades of Big Brother. I’m not talking about the network’s reality show. I’m talking about the sinister, ubiquitous overlord in George Orwell’s 1949 novel “1984,” a symbol of a totalitarian state in which every citizen is under constant surveillance and propaganda by ubiquitous “telescreens.”

We’re not there yet, but the growing number of requests from law enforcement that look to Google for access to user information raises big questions about what may be happening in states where the Abortion, or helping someone get one, is again a serious crime issue.

In the first half of last year, Google received more than 50,000 subpoenas, search warrants and other legal requests for data that Google retains, according to the company’s transparency report.

Outside of conventional law enforcement, some states are considering the bounty hunter approach embedded in Texas’ notorious anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 8, which offers cash rewards to potential plaintiffs for successfully finding and prosecuting anyone who helps a woman access abortion. even, as has often been said, his Uber driver.

This all reminds me of the bad old days before Roe c. Wade, when women were rarely allowed to choose abortion unless they had plenty of money and other resources.

Those days came flooding back to me as I watched “The Janes,” a new documentary airing on HBO and HBO Max about Chicago’s former Jane Collective, or “Jane” for short. Volunteers, mostly women, ran the Underground Service from 1969 to 1973 to help pregnant women obtain abortions, which were still illegal in Illinois, as in most states.

They didn’t have to worry about Google’s location services back then, although they constantly had to dodge the police even as they advertised their services through word of mouth and advertisements. in the underground Chicago Seed saying, “Pregnant? You don’t want to be? Call Jane”, a name chosen for its simplicity.

Ironically, as Jane’s founder, Heather Booth, says in the documentary, “We always thought the police knew about it.”

It tells the story of a woman married to a police officer who brought her pregnant daughter to Jane. “Although I didn’t ask, I had every reason to believe it was the policeman who told his wife where to go,” Booth said. “So we think it was actually a useful service to society.

“Abortion hadn’t been politicized yet,” she said, referring to the ferocity with which the issue has become a battle cry for the political right.

Jane ended after one of their apartments was raided by Chicago police in 1972 and seven of its members were arrested and charged with enough abortions to send them to prison for up to 110 years. . Fortunately, Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court was returned in 1973 and the charges against the Jane women were dropped.

Will those days come again? In some ways they have already, as various anti-abortion politicians and activists push for even tougher laws and regulations, including efforts to track down and prosecute abortion providers like we might hunt domestic terrorists. .

Sanity must prevail if justice is to survive. We urgently want law enforcement to hunt down mass shooters, domestic terrorists and other heinous criminals. But we must always protect everyone’s reasonable right to privacy, including, I hope, women’s right to have power over their own bodies.

Contact Clarence Page at [email protected]

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