Tech preps for post-Roe
Good morning. Technology has changed almost everything about the way we live in the last five decades. But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the same technology that has made life easier could also be used against the companies who made it possible — and the users who need it. I’m Kate Cox, and it sure has been a week.
The uncertain post-Roe future
The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, 49 years and approximately as many technological eons ago. While the legal precedent still holds as the law of the land, it seems all but certain Roe will not make it to 50. Many states already have laws on the books that will make abortion completely illegal within their borders the second Roe stops existing. But for all the talk of going “back” to a pre-Roe world, tech has completely changed the landscape — and has a huge role to play in what comes next.
Technology makes health care and legal information much easier to access. Fifty years ago, getting access to health care without actually seeing a doctor in person was significantly more challenging than it is today.
- Virtual doctor’s office visits, like virtual everything else, exploded in popularity due to the pandemic. Insurers expect remote care services to remain widely used even as the pandemic ebbs from its peak. For people who live too far away from or don’t have a means of transportation to in-person health care, that can be a lifeline.
- The FDA in December permanently removed restrictions on ordering mifepristone, a medication patients can take at home to end an early pregnancy, by mail or through telehealth, making it more widely available nationwide. (Although some states, such as Texas, have already moved to block access to mail-order abortion medication.)
- The internet is also a valuable source for basic reproductive health education, especially for younger users, and accurate information about applicable state laws.
But technology can also be weaponized. Tech companies face a legal nightmare if Roe is overturned, because they may be compelled to turn over user data related to obtaining abortions.
- Not only would they potentially have to hand over information about individuals seeking abortion care, but also about ride-hail drivers or online funding donors who help anyone obtain an abortion.
- The issue is that most everything is tracking you, and “anonymized” data is anything but. Dozens of studies and reports published in the past decade have found that it takes very little work to pinpoint and identify individuals out of “anonymized” datasets.
- Data brokers are already selling location data of individuals who visit abortion clinics. Vice reports it costs about $160 “to get a week's worth of data on where people who visited Planned Parenthood came from, and where they went afterwards.”
We don’t have meaningful federal privacy law, and we’re not going to anytime soon. In a post-Roe world, that leaves mountains of commercial user data wide open for cops who want to track down people trying to secure abortions.
- Although HIPAA puts limits on how your health care providers can use your data, huge numbers of entities that can track, collect and sell data related to your health care aren’t covered under it.
- Police have already used technologies such as facial recognition and geofencing to identify and arrest individuals, for example during the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality in 2020.
- Law enforcement agencies also sometimes simply buy user data on the open market instead of conducting surveillance directly, thereby avoiding Fourth Amendment concerns.
So here we are. The pre- and post–Roe worlds couldn’t be farther apart thanks to technology. While the internet threw open the door to free health care information and resources, that same internet will also be used to surveil people trying to obtain health care. Tech companies might be caught in the crossfire, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
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People are talking
Reggie Fils-Aimé said he tried to create a healthy culture with contractors at Nintendo:
- “I know I was able to achieve that, and certainly what’s being described does not seem like a healthy culture.”
Tony Fadell thinks items that contribute to climate change should be taxed, no matter how much the buyer makes:
- “People always find a way to consume more if there is a hack for it.”
Elon Musk said he might add a "slight cost" to commercial and government Twitter users:
- "Ultimately, the downfall of the Freemasons was giving away their stonecutting services for nothing."
The first union vote for Apple Store workers is set for June 2, The Verge reported. Apple workers in Atlanta will vote on whether to organize with the Communications Workers of America.
Briana Ings is ClickUp’s new VP of Product. Ings was previously the VP of Product and Design at Snapdocs.
Bernard Kim is replacing Shar Dubey as Match Group’s CEO. Kim is Zynga’s president.Desi Ujkashevic joined Apple to work on its car ambitions, sources told Bloomberg. Ujkashevic is Ford’s global director of Safety Engineering.
In other news
Just Eat's leadership is a mess right now. Its COO is being investigated for misconduct, and its chair won't be up for reappointment after facing criticism.
The SEC is looking into Didi's U.S. IPO last June, and the company said it's cooperating with the investigation.
Elon Musk would take Twitter public again after a few years of keeping it a private company, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Uber and Lyft are still climbing back from the pandemic. Lyft said it's spending more money to get drivers back, while Uber grew its ride-hailing and delivery businesses but lost $5.6 billion from investments.
SpaceX needs to better protect the environment if it wants to start testing and launching its Starship in Boca Chica, Texas, according to CNBC. U.S. officials told the company to take steps to monitor its impact on endangered species in the area.
Kraken has an NFT marketplace now. The crypto exchange opened a waitlist for Kraken NFT.
Instagram wants to look more like TikTok. The platform is testing full-screen vertical home feeds that show likes and other features at the top of the post.
Twitter will let you talk to a small group of users with a new feature called Twitter Circle, which it started testing yesterday.Here’s your podcast of the day: This episode of “How I Built This,” which includes interviews with Strava’s Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath.
Bring your pet to work day
Pandemic pets are a different breed. The separation anxiety is real, and that only gets worse when you eventually have to leave your dog at home and go to the office. But if your office is considering a pet-friendly policy, here are some tips The Washington Post laid out:
- Create a gated area of the office where pets can roam around, like an indoor dog park.
- Outline some rules about pets in the office. If your dog barks a lot, should they be there?
- Keep cleaning supplies on hand. You never know when your pet will forget it was potty-trained.
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