SafeGraph said it will stop selling location data about Planned Parenthoods to avoid the 'potential misuse of its data' after Roe decision leak

Advertisement
SafeGraph said it will stop selling location data about Planned Parenthoods to avoid the 'potential misuse of its data' after Roe decision leak
The outside of the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis as seen on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. The clinic is the last location in the state of Missouri performing abortions.Neeta Satam for The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • SafeGraph announced Wednesday it would stop selling data related to family planning centers, like Planned Parenthood locations.
  • SafeGraph is self-serve and offers anyone the opportunity to purchase its aggregated data.
Advertisement

The data broker SafeGraph on Wednesday said it stopped offering for sale data related to family planning centers, including Planned Parenthood locations, following the leaked Supreme Court opinion that indicated the court was poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

"In light of potential federal changes in family planning access, we're removing Patterns data for locations classified as NAICS code 621410 ('Family Planning Centers') from our self-serve "shop" and API to curtail any potential misuse of its data" Auren Hoffman, the CEO of SafeGraph said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The announcement followed a Tuesday report from VICE's Motherboard, which exposed that the data broker could be used to purchase information on the locations of people who used Planned Parenthood services.

Complimentary Tech Event
Discover the future of SaaS in India
The 6-part video series will capture the vision of Indian SaaS leaders and highlight the potential for the sector in the decades to come.25th Aug, 2022 Starts at 04:00 PM (40 mins)Register Now
Our Speakers
Dan Sheeran
Sandeep Gupta

SafeGraph had labeled Planned Parenthood as a "brand" that it tracked, according to Motherboard. Planned Parenthood did not return Insider's request for comment on Wednesday.

Politico on Monday published a leaked draft opinion written in February by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. The opinion, which had the support of the majority of the court, according to the report, would overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision and its 1992 decision counterpart, Casey v. Planned Parenthood. The two decisions have cemented the right to abortion in the US for decades.

Advertisement

Nearly two dozen states already have laws in place that would outlaw or limit access abortion if the Supreme Court overturned its previous rulings.

Data brokers, like SafeGraph, are companies that collect or otherwise aggregate data about people and businesses and sell it. According to Motherboard, it was possible for anyone to purchase aggregated location data from SafeGraph that indicated how many people were visiting family planning centers, how long they were there, where they were before they came there, and where they went after they left.

Earlier this week, the outlet said it had purchased data about a week's worth of activity at over 600 Planned Parenthood locations for $160. SafeGraph allows users to purchase data in a self-serve capacity, meaning the company does not verify who is purchasing the location data and for what purpose, according to the report.

That data is aggregated from typical apps people have installed on their phones, according to Motherboard. In addition to being aggregated, the data is also anonymized, according to SafeGraph.

"We have had many academics that have used this type of data for really good purposes," Hoffman said on Wednesday in the blog post. "Taking away this data will impact many academics that want to study this topic (like understanding the impact of legislation on family planning visits)."

Advertisement

Hoffman said the company made the decision to suspend sales for family planning centers "given the current climate."

Other data available for purchase from SafeGraph includes aggregated transaction data that indicates how much money people spend at certain businesses, the Motherboard report said.

Hoffman said the company did not have "any indication" that data from SafeGraph had been "used for bad purposes." The company says it does not sell data about individuals, though it does sell some device-specific data, per Motherboard.

"SafeGraph has always committed to the highest level of privacy practices ensuring individual privacy is NEVER compromised," Hoffman wrote. "We use differential privacy to ensure anonymity."

SafeGraph said it would still provide data about the locations and operating hours of family planning centers because that data is already publicly available.

Advertisement
{{}}