July 07, 2022

Warren Announces Two Key Data Brokers’ Commitment to Permanently Stop Selling Location Data of People Seeking Abortion Services

Warren Led Thirteen Senate Colleagues in Letter Calling on Brokers to Completely and Permanently Ban Selling Location Data of People Who Visit Abortion Clinics

Response from SafeGraph (PDF) | Response from Placer.ai (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced that SafeGraph and Placer.ai, two data brokers, have committed, in response to her request, to permanently stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics. The data brokers’ commitment follows a May 2022 letter that Senator Warren led with thirteen of her Senate colleagues, blasting the companies for collecting and selling the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics and risking the safety of anyone seeking access to abortion services.

“Two large data brokers have committed to stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics. This is a good start,” said Senator 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 Senator Warren’s letter, the two companies provided detailed answers about their data collection practices and answered Senator Warren’s call to permanently stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics. 

SafeGraph said, “SafeGraph has removed all of 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 June 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, which would reform the $200 billion-a-year data broker market by banning data brokers from selling Americans’ location and health data.

  • Data privacy experts said the legislation “would fill one of the largest protection gaps in U.S. privacy law.”
  • The Boston Globe Editorial Board called on Congress to act on data privacy and expressed support for Senator Warren’s bill saying, “when states begin to criminalize not just the act of providing an abortion but receiving one as well, then women will be at risk of being surveilled and targeted by state governments and antiabortion vigilantes… Given the gravity of the Supreme Court’s ruling [overturning Roe v. Wade], it’s time for ambitious legislation, and Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken a big step toward that end.”