Democrat senators led by Elizabeth Warren want to ban brokers from trading people's health and location data

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Democrat senators led by Elizabeth Warren want to ban brokers from trading people's health and location data
Sen. Elizabeth Warren.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • A group of Democrat senators led by Elizabeth Warren wants to ban brokers from trading location and health data.
  • Data brokers sell anonymized personal data but this can sometimes be de-anonymized.
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A group of Democrat senators led by Elizabeth Warren is seeking to ban brokers from selling Americans' health and location data, amid concerns that people visiting abortion clinics could soon be tracked and targeted by vigilantes.

A bill introduced Wednesday by Warren, cosponsored by Bernie Sanders and several other Democrats, would ban data brokers from selling or transferring individuals' location data and health data, according to a statement on Warren's website.

"Data brokers profit from the location data of millions of people, posing serious risks to Americans everywhere by selling their most private information," Warren said.

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"With this extremist Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and states seeking to criminalize essential health care, it is more crucial than ever for Congress to protect consumers' sensitive data," she added.

A leaked draft opinion published by Politico in May suggests the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. Some 13 states have legislation in place to swiftly criminalize abortion should the case be overturned.

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After the court's draft opinion was made public, Vice and The Markup found that health and location data sold by brokers could be used to track individuals visiting abortion clinics. Vice reported in May it was able to buy phone location data for for 600 Planned Parenthood clinics in the US for $160.

It's possible to acquire this data legally from data brokers. These companies buy people's personal data, package it up, and sell it on. While the datasets they sell are anonymized, it's sometimes possible to de-anonymize individuals within.

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