Senator Demands Action Over Tracking of Planned Parenthood Visitors

A troubling revelation has surfaced regarding the tracking of individuals visiting Planned Parenthood locations, sparking a swift response from Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and raising concerns about privacy violations and targeted anti-abortion campaigns. Near Intelligence, a data broker company, stands accused of tracking user visits to approximately 600 Planned Parenthood facilities and supplying this data to an anti-abortion ad campaign.

In a letter addressed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Senator Wyden demanded urgent action to address the situation. He called for federal regulators to ensure the deletion of all location and device data collected by Near Intelligence and urged the SEC to investigate whether the company provided misleading information to investors in its filings.

Wyden denounced Near Intelligence as a “scandal-plagued location data broker” and emphasized the grave implications of its actions, which involve the sale of personal information detailing individuals’ visits to sensitive locations.

The controversy surrounding Near Intelligence came to light following a report by The Wall Street Journal, which revealed that an anti-abortion group, Veritas Society, had utilized geo-location smartphone data to target individuals who had visited Planned Parenthood clinics with tailored ads on social media platforms. These ads, containing misleading information about pregnancy termination, were strategically deployed following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

During investigations into Near Intelligence, the company’s Chief Privacy Officer, Jay Angelo, acknowledged that until the summer of 2022, the company lacked adequate controls to prevent the targeting of individuals who had visited sensitive facilities like reproductive health clinics. Despite ceasing the sale of data concerning Europeans, Near Intelligence continued to sell location data about Americans without obtaining consent, further exacerbating privacy concerns.

Senator Wyden also raised alarm over potential investor deception, alleging that Near Intelligence misled investors by failing to disclose requests for information from Congress and withholding crucial details about its data practices.

In light of these revelations, Wyden urged the FTC to intervene and halt the sale of data collected by Near Intelligence, which filed for bankruptcy in December. He underscored the urgency of safeguarding Americans’ private health data, warning of the dire consequences of allowing such breaches to persist unchecked.

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As the issue continues to unfold, Senator Wyden’s call for robust privacy protections serves as a stark reminder of the pressing need to uphold individual privacy rights and hold data brokers accountable for their actions.

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