After Dobbs, FTC Pledges To Police Sharing Of Sensitive Data

Law360 (July 11, 2022, 9:53 PM EDT) — Days after President Joe Biden said he would do “everything in his power” to ensure abortion access, including protecting the privacy of individuals seeking reproductive health care services, a Federal Trade Commission official announced Monday that the agency is cracking down on the illegal sharing of sensitive medical and location data.

In a July 11 blog post to businesses, the acting associate director of the FTC’s Privacy and Identity Protection Division said the misuse of location and health information can expose individuals to significant harm.

“The exposure of health information and medical conditions, especially data related to sexual activity or reproductive health, may subject people to discrimination, stigma, mental anguish, or other serious harms,” said the FTC’s Kristin Cohen.

The FTC will “vigorously” enforce the law if it uncovers illegal conduct that exploits Americans’ location, health or other sensitive data, Cohen wrote.

Electronic devices — such as smartphones and wearable fitness trackers — can connect a person’s precise location and information about their health, Cohen noted.

“This isn’t the stuff of dystopian fiction,” Cohen said.

Technology companies collect that data, combine it, and sell or monetize it, she said.

The companies and others can also build profiles on individuals and draw inferences about them based on the places they’ve visited — including determining that a person is an “expectant parent,” Cohen noted.

There is also information stored online that could be misused related to an individual’s reproductive health, including products that “track women’s periods, monitor their fertility, oversee their

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