Consumer Alert: Protecting your Data Privacy when Seeking an Abortion
The Office of the Attorney General is closely monitoring how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade may impact people who seek to safely and privately access reproductive health and abortion services in the District of Columbia. Browsing the internet and using our phones may feel private, but many companies actually watch what we do online and use our phones to track where we go.
For District residents, you are able to access safe abortion care here, but may still want to protect your privacy while determining your options.
For those from other states who may consider coming to the District for abortion care, you may now worry that searching online for abortion clinics, ordering abortion medication, asking questions to doctors’ offices about terminating a pregnancy, or using apps to track your menstrual cycles could be used against you or as evidence in lawsuits.
We are working to ensure that District residents – and those who come here from other states for abortion access – are able to fully exercise their rights.
To be clear: Abortion remains legal in the District. But because of heightened concerns around privacy of reproductive information, below are some no-cost measures and considerations that you can take to keep your information private.
Steps you can take to keep your searches and movements private:
- Add a pin or password to open your phone.
- Turn off location sharing and permissions on your phone apps.
- Turn off your mobile ad ID to limit how companies can connect your search and browsing data with your location.
- Turn off personalized ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Google.
- Consider using a more private search engine, like DuckDuckGo or Qwant, and a more private internet browser like Firefox Focus or Brave.
- Use incognito or private mode when using a browser to protect your searches.
Steps you can take to keep your reproductive health and abortion services private:
- Should you choose to tell anyone about your abortion story, make sure they are trusted sources.
- Avoid sending or receiving sensitive information by email, text message, or messaging app. If you are discussing sensitive information in texts or online messages, use a secure, encrypted messaging app like Signal and turn on the feature to make your messages disappear.
- Reconsider the information you share with fertility and period tracking apps, or even using them in the first place.
- Consider paying for your abortion with cash or a prepaid gift card. This will prevent the charge from appearing on your payment history with your bank or budgeting apps.
- Be mindful that people protesting abortion rights may attempt to capture your identity on camera and share that information publicly, so remain cautious and alert when entering a reproductive health clinic.
- Consider leaving your phone at home or turning it off when traveling to or accessing these services. And consider using alternative modes of transportations to avoid enabling photographs of license plates.
- Make sure your phones and devices have passwords on them.
For more tips and information about protecting your data privacy when seeking an abortion, visit the Digital Defense Fund’s guide. More resources and tips are also available in this Washington Post article.
The Office of the Attorney General works to educate District residents about their consumer rights, responds to individual consumer complaints, and takes appropriate law enforcement actions where possible. Learn more about your rights and how to protect yourself against scams at oag.dc.gov/ConsumerProtection.