Facebook shares chat history in abortion case, sparks outrage in US

Facebook owner Meta defended himself by noting that the court order “did not mention abortion at all.” (Case)

San Francisco:

Facebook has sparked outrage by complying with US police investigating an abortion case, bolstering latent fears the platform is a tool to crack down on the procedure.

Criticism has piled up after media revealed the social media giant delivered key messages to a mother who was criminally charged with aborting her daughter.

Lawyers had warned of exactly that sort of thing after America’s top court revoked the nation’s abortion rights in late June, as big tech companies hold a wealth of data on user locations and behavior. .

Jessica Burgess, 41, has been charged with helping her 17-year-old daughter terminate a pregnancy in the US Midwest state of Nebraska.

She faces five counts, including one under a 2010 law that only allows abortion up to 20 weeks after fertilization.

The girl faces three counts, including one of concealing or leaving a corpse.

Yet Facebook owner Meta defended himself on Tuesday, noting that the Nebraska court order “didn’t mention abortion at all,” and presented himself to the highly controversial Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that conferred the right to abortion in the United States. states.

“That sentence would seem to imply that *if* the search warrants mentioned abortion, the result would be different. But of course that’s not true,” tweeted Logan Koepke, who studies the impact of technology on people. issues such as criminal justice.

Asked about the transmission of data, the Silicon Valley giant pointed out to AFP its policy of complying with government requests when “the law requires us to do so”.

Nebraska’s restrictions were passed years before Roe’s cancellation. Some 16 states have outright bans or limits on the first weeks of pregnancy in their jurisdictions.

“Failed to release encrypted chats”

For observers of the world of technology, the case of Nebraska will surely not be the last.

“It’s going to continue to happen to companies that have large amounts of data about people across the country and around the world,” said Alexandra Givens, CEO of the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology.

She went on to note that if businesses receive a duly issued lawful request, under valid law, they have a strong incentive to want to comply with that request.

“Companies should at a minimum ensure that they insist on full legal proceedings, that warrants are specific and not a fishing expedition, that searches are interpreted very narrowly, and that they educate users so that they can try to push back,” Givens added.

Meta did not provide AFP with the Nebraska court order. The police filing asked the judge to order the company not to tell Burgess’ daughter about the search warrant for her Facebook posts.

“I have reason to believe that notification to the subscriber or customer of the issuance of this search warrant may result in the destruction or tampering with evidence,” police detective Ben McBride wrote.

He told the court he began investigating “concerns” in late April that Burgess’ daughter had given birth prematurely to a “stillborn child”, whom they allegedly buried together.

Proponents noted that in addition to not using Meta’s products, a surefire way to keep user communications out of government hands would be for them to be automatically encrypted.

WhatsApp, owned by Meta, has end-to-end encryption, which means the company has no access to information, but this level of privacy is not the default setting on Facebook. Messenger.

“The company has never said it will not comply with a request from law enforcement in a situation related to abortions,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign manager for the advocacy group Fight for the Future.

“If users could rely on encrypted messaging, Meta wouldn’t even be able to share conversations,” she added.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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