A U.S. congressional committee has asked data brokers and personal health apps to say how they handle users’ reproductive health data, amid concerns that states use information to track patients seeking abortion in places where it is illegal.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee said they were concerned that location data, search history and other information from mobile phones could create “digital breadcrumbs” that reveal interest in medical abortion services.
“The collection of sensitive data could pose a serious threat to those seeking reproductive care,” the lawmakers wrote Friday.
Democrats have tried to maintain legal access to abortion since the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to the practice last month. Several Republican-led states have already outlawed abortion, and others are expected to do so soon.
The commission sent letters to five data brokers SafeGraph, Digital Envoy, Placer.ai, Gravy Analytics and Babel Street, as well as five personal health apps Flo Health Inc, Glow Inc, BioWink GmbH, GP International and Digitalchemy Ventures.
The letters asked the companies, all of them private, to submit documents related to data sharing by July 21.
According to a June study by The Journal of Medical Internet Research, 87% of the 23 most popular women’s health apps shared their users’ data with third parties, although just over half asked for their users’ consent, according to the commission.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign an executive order on Friday to help safeguard women’s access to abortion and contraception.