A 17-year-old American woman is accused of having an illegal abortion in Nebraska. These accusations come after Facebook gave the police the private conversations of the young woman.
On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion in the United States. Since then, US states have been free to allow or limit the possibility of termination of pregnancy. In Nebraska, it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy for more than 20 weeks. On Monday, August 8, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, in a press release, lamented the senators’ refusal to reduce this deadline to 12 weeks.
Fees established after examining private conversations
In this tense context, a 17-year-old girl is on trial for having terminated her pregnancy in Nebraska after 23 weeks, according to local media outlet Lincoln Journal Star. But these accusations were made after examining his private conversations, which Facebook transmitted to the authorities.
The starting point of the case, Norfolk police received information about the young woman’s miscarriage in April, Forbes explains. So charges were brought against Celeste Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess. They are accused of concealing or abandoning a human corpse and concealing the death of a person.
During the investigation, authorities sent a search warrant to the Meta group – the owner of Facebook and Instagram – to gain access to the teenager’s private conversations. Data from the platform includes, among other things, information about his account, photos, audio and video recordings, as well as private messages, Bloomberg details. The illegal abortion charges were only added to the file after consulting Celeste Burgess’ letters.
Requests to protect personal data
US media reports that Internet searches, instant messages, emails, geolocation data, and phone calls can reveal actual pregnancy termination discussions, purchases, or visits.
By tracking users, Google or Meta has this information. Elected Democrats and human rights groups have called on the platforms to strengthen protection of personal data, following the abolition of the federal right to abortion. But the worst-case scenario envisioned by some has materialized.
Meta has denied participating in an investigation into illegal abortion. In a short statement, the group clarified that the search warrant received on June 7 (before the Supreme Court decision) contained no reference to a voluntary termination of pregnancy. “Court documents indicate that police were at the time investigating allegations of cremation and the burial of a dead child,” the company said.
Unlike Whatsapp or Signal apps, Messenger does not offer end-to-end encrypted conversations by default. Thus the Meta is able to access the message history. Hence forwarding it to the authorities.
Unequal parking on the side of the platforms
Faced with risks from data collection, Google announced on July 1 that it would delete data associated with a Planned Parenthood visit. Cycle tracking apps also plan to secure the personal data of their users. For its part, YouTube has taken the decision to remove content that gives instructions about dangerous abortion methods, as well as videos that spread false information on this topic.
At the same time, Meta’s behavior is more complex. In addition to collecting data, the Facebook and Instagram platforms have removed posts offering to send abortion pills. Within the internal discussion tool, employees saw their messages referring to the right to abortion deleted. That’s when a memo circulated across the company: “Frankly discussing abortion at work poses an increased risk of creating a hostile work environment.”