Democrat Senators condemned two data-broking companies they say tracked the locations of people visiting abortion clinics.
According to a letter signed by 13 U.S. Senators, SafeGraph and Placer.ai both collected and sold cellphone-based location data of people visiting abortion clinics, then repackaged the information for sale to virtually anyone with a credit card – all without the person’s knowledge.
Senators claim the information is already being bought up by pro-life organizations and activists to harass women seeking an abortion.
"Anti-abortion activists have already used location data to send targeted anti-choice ads to women’s phones while they are sitting in abortion clinics," the senators wrote. "Anti-abortion politicians in Republican-led states have placed bounties on women who receive abortions and doctors that provide them and even proposed laws that would punish pregnant people for traveling to seek abortions out of state. Anti-abortion prosecutors have used search and message data to criminally charge abortion seekers."
As the Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, senators urge the companies to end these practices immediately.
Equally disturbing, they say, is the $200-billion data broking industry, which collects "untold amounts of data from Americans," often without the customer’s informed consent or knowledge.
Senators say SafeGraph and Placer.ai, in particular, have "incredibly precise location and time data" from millions of cellphones, making it easy to figure out where a customer goes or lives. In the case of Placer.ai, senators say some of that data can be accessed just by making a free account on their website.
Both companies have largely not responded to public outcry over their data collection practices, senators wrote, and neither provided detailed information on the number of people impacted.
The companies are asked to respond to the senators’ questions by May 31.