US Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in announcing that SafeGraph and Placer.ai, two data brokers, have committed, in response to their request, to permanently stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics.
The data brokers’ commitment follows a May 2022 letter that Sen. Padilla signed with his Senate colleagues criticizing the companies for collecting and selling the cell phone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics, risking the safety of anyone seeking access to abortion services.
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent nationwide assault on abortion rights, protecting the privacy of those seeking abortion care is more important than ever,” said Padilla. “SafeGraph and Placer.ai’s promise to end the sale of location data of those visiting abortion clinics is a meaningful first step. We must continue to safeguard consumer privacy by enshrining these fundamental protections into law.”
“Two large data brokers have committed to stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics. This is a good start,” said Sen. Warren. “But with Roe v. Wade dead and states across the country seeking to criminalize essential health care, we can’t rely on the goodwill of Big Tech to protect Americans’ data and safety. That’s why I’m calling on the United States Congress to pass my Health and Location Data Protection Act to ban brokers from selling location and health data and establish serious privacy protections for consumers.”
In their responses to the senators’ letter, the two companies provided detailed answers about their data collection practices and answered Senator Padilla’s call to permanently stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics.
SafeGraph said, “SafeGraph has removed all the visit-related Patterns statistics aggregated to businesses categorized by the NAICS Code for family planning centers, 621410. In other words, it is now impossible to access any information about visits to family planning centers from our platform.”
Placer.ai said, “the company commits, on a permanent basis, to disabling user access to data about any additional sensitive locations that raise similar concerns — including other reproductive health providers that may not have been identified in the Company’s prior reviews.”
In May 2022, Sen. Padilla alongside other lawmakers sent a letter calling on Google to limit tracking of location data following Republican efforts to criminalize abortion. In response, on July 1, 2022, Google announced that it plans to quickly delete location history for people going to abortion sites and other medical sites.
Padilla is also a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would guarantee access and the right to provide abortion services in the United States.