In response to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Biden White House took a step to address some of the privacy concerns raised. Although it’s unclear what policies may change as a result of the action, the White House suggested that it’s trying to increase privacy protections for people seeking reproductive healthcare in a new addressing abortion access and other issues.
“The potential threat to patient privacy caused by the transfer and sale of sensitive health-related data and by digital surveillance,” the order states. Additionally, it provides some guidance to other organizations, such as the FTC, without actually suggesting new rules.
Instead, it appears that the order largely leaves the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services to make their own decisions. The FTC chair, for instance, is urged to “consider actions… to protect consumers’ privacy when seeking information about and providing reproductive healthcare services,” according to the statement. Additionally, it states that the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General “should consider actions to educate consumers on how best to protect their health privacy and limit the collection and sharing of their sensitive health-related information.”
Following privacy activists’ and advocates’ warnings that the absence of federal privacy regulations could have an impact on people seeking abortions after Roe, Biden issued his executive order. Period tracking apps have drawn a lot of attention, but experts claim the problem is much more widespread than just one particular kind of app. Although the executive order doesn’t address issues like data brokers or the extensive collection of personal data by tech companies, Congress has taken note of the problem. A group of Democrats from the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into five data brokers and the businesses responsible for five well-known cycle tracking apps on the same day as Biden’s executive order.