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The Health and Location Data Protection Act: What It Would Mean For Advertisers

Jun 29, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Starting with the leak in May of the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, legalizing a woman’s right to an abortion, some legislators are taking action to try and prevent tech companies from selling users’ health data. The concern is that this data could be used in some states with strict anti-abortion laws to attempt to prosecute women seeking abortion care. 

On June 15, 2022, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and a group of democratic senators, introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act

The bill would:

  • Ban data brokers from selling or transferring location data and health data and require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enact rules to implement the law within 180 days, while making exceptions for HIPAA-compliant activities, protected First Amendment speech, and other approved health or location data disclosures
  • Ensure vigorous enforcement of the bill’s provisions by empowering the FTC, state attorneys general, and injured persons to sue to enforce the provisions of the law
  • Provide $1 billion in funding to the FTC over the next decade to carry out its work, including the enforcement of this law*

Why This Matters

In its recent Q1 2022 Privacy on Family Planning Apps Report, Pixalate found that among 1.7k apps classified as “family planning” - meaning apps with the words “pregnancy” or “period” in the title - across the Google Play and Apple App stores:

  • 28% of family planning apps on Apple request access to the user’s location while the app is in use, and 13% request access even when the app isn’t being used
  • Over 10% of the apps share the user’s location with advertisers and/or data brokers

These findings raise the question of whether this data should require additional protections, like most medical data under HIPAA in the U.S. Protecting the data of consumers, especially protected data like health records and sensitive data like location, should be a top priority for Congress. 

*Warren, Wyden, Murray, Whitehouse, Sanders introduce legislation to ban data brokers from selling Americans' location and Health Data: U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren, Wyden, Murray, Whitehouse, Sanders Introduce Legislation to Ban Data Brokers from Selling Americans' Location and Health Data | U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. (2022, June 15). Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/warren-wyden-murray-whitehouse-sanders-introduce-legislation-to-ban-data-brokers-from-selling-americans-location-and-health-data 

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