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Location knowledge dealer SafeGraph stops promoting info on visits to abortion suppliers

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People protest after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, getting ready for a majority of the courtroom to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights choice later this 12 months, in New York City, U.S., May 3, 2022. 

Yana Paskova | Reuters

The on-line data-location dealer SafeGraph mentioned it has stopped promoting info on visits to abortion clinics after a report from Vice revealed how simply the info might be bought, elevating considerations that “anti-abortion vigilantes” may use it to focus on suppliers and their shoppers.

Vice reported Tuesday that it bought every week’s price of location knowledge for greater than 600 Planned Parenthood areas throughout the United States for simply over $160 from SafeGraph.

Some of these areas supply abortion companies, based on the report.

And the info confirmed the place teams of individuals visiting these amenities got here from, the length of their visits and the place they traveled afterward, based on the Vice Motherboard article.

SafeGraph, whose buyers reportedly have included billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel and a former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence company, obtains and aggregates location knowledge from apps put in on folks’s cell phones.

The firm says that the “Patterns” knowledge of the type bought by Vice, which reveals how teams of individuals work together with a given location, is anonymized to guard the privateness of particular person guests.

But Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher, instructed Vice: “It’s bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic.”

“This is how you ‘dox’ someone traveling across state lines for abortions — how you dox clinics providing this service,” Edwards mentioned.

Vice’s article was revealed a day after a Politico report on a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion, which signifies {that a} majority of justices have voted to overturn the half-century-old Roe v. Wade ruling that claims folks have a constitutional proper to abortions.

If that finally ends up being the official choice of the excessive courtroom this summer time, the ruling is anticipated to shortly result in the banning of abortion, or the extreme restriction of the process, in as much as two dozen states.

That, in flip, is anticipated to extend the variety of folks touring from their dwelling states to acquire abortions at clinics in states the place the process nonetheless can be authorized, as has been the case lately since Texas adopted a restrictive new abortion regulation.

When requested concerning the Vice article by CNBC on Wednesday, a SafeGraph spokesman emailed a hyperlink to an internet submit titled, “Demystifying the SafeGraph Facts.”

In the submit, the corporate mentioned it “just sells facts,” and “we only sell data about physical places (not individuals).”

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“To our knowledge, nobody has ever used SafeGraph Patterns data for malicious purposes,” the submit mentioned. “In fact, the Patterns dataset has mostly been used by 15,000+ researchers and academics and local governments to combat COVID-19.”

“But there are always extreme hypothetical corner cases, and in some cases these are worth actively preventing,” the submit famous.

“In light of potential federal changes in family planning access, we’re removing Patterns data for locations classified as NAICS code 621410 (‘Family Planning Centers’) from our self-serve “store” and API to curtail any potential misuse of its data,” the submit added.

SafeGraph mentioned the elimination of this knowledge will have an effect on many educational researchers who wish to examine the subject, “like understanding the impact of legislation on family planning visits.”

“We acknowledge that our decision to take down Patterns for family planning centers could negatively impact this valuable research, but we think this is the right decision given the current climate,” the corporate mentioned.

SafeGraph mentioned it can nonetheless have knowledge on the market concerning the areas and working hours of household planning facilities.

“Family Planning centers like Planned Parenthood make their location data public because they want to serve their constituents,” SafeGraph mentioned.

Planned Parenthood made no rapid remark to CNBC concerning the SafeGraph knowledge.

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