With the changing legal landscape, people seeking an abortion or any type of reproductive healthcare that could result in the termination of a pregnancy may need to be vigilant about their digital privacy and security. We’ve already covered how those involved in the abortion access movement can protect themselves and their communities. We have also created a principle guide for platforms to respect the privacy of users and the right to bodily autonomy. This post is a guide specifically for anyone seeking an abortion and concerned about their digital privacy. There is a lot of overlap with the tips outlined in the previously mentioned guides; Many tips need to be repeated.
We’re not yet sure how companies will respond to law enforcement requests for abortion-related data, and you may not have much control over their decisions. But there’s a lot you can do to control who you give your information to, what kind of data they receive, and how it might be connected to the rest of your digital life.
Keep this data separate from your daily activities
If you are afraid of legal pressure, the most important thing to remember is to separate these activities from less sensitive activities. This can be done in many ways, but the underlying idea is to keep this information away from other aspects of your “normal” life. This makes tracing back to you more difficult.
Choosing a separate browser with hardened privacy settings is an easy and free start. Browsers like Brave, Firefox, and DuckDuckGo on mobile are all user-friendly options that come with hardened privacy settings by default. It’s a good idea to look into the “Settings” menu of your chosen browser and increase the privacy settings even further. It’s also a good idea to disable this browser’s features to save browsing history and website data/cookies. Here’s what it looks like in Firefox’s Privacy and Security menu:
When calling clinics or healthcare providers, you should use a secondary phone number such as Google Voice (which is free), falls silentor burner (Both Hushed and Burner are paid apps, but have much better privacy policies than Google Voice). It’s also a good idea to have a separate email address, especially one designed for privacy and security. Some email services you might consider are Tutanota and proton mail.
One way to protect your privacy is to get a “burner phone” – a phone that isn’t connected to your regular cell phone account. But keeping a super safe burner phone can be difficult for many people. If this is the case, you should check the privacy settings of your current mobile phone to see what information is being collected about you, who is collecting it and what they may be doing with it.
If you are already using a menstrual tracker app, carefully review their privacy settings. If possible, consider switching to a more privacy-focused app. For example, Euki promises not to store any user information.
Disable advertising identifiers on your phone. We have put together a guide for iOS and Android here. This limits the ability of individual apps to track your behavior as you use them and limits the sharing of that information with others.
While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to check the other permissions apps have on your phone, particularly location services. For apps that need location data for their core functionality (e.g. Google Maps), choose an option like “While in use”, which only gives the app permission to show your location when it’s open (remember, close those apps completely when you’re done with them).
If you have a “Find My” feature enabled for your phone, such as Apple’s feature to see where your phone is from your other computers, You should consider turning that off before traveling to or from a place you do not want anyone else to be able to see your visit from.
If you are traveling to or from a location (e.g. a clinic or a rally) where there is a likelihood that law enforcement will stop you or confiscate your device, or if you are frequently in the vicinity of someone entering without permission Your phone might look , disabling biometric unlocking is a good idea. This means disabling all features of unlocking your phone with your Face ID or fingerprint. Instead, you should opt for a passcode that’s hard to guess (like all passwords: make it long, unique, and random).
Since you probably use your phone to text and call others who have privacy and security concerns similar to yours, downloading it is a good idea signal, an end-to-end encrypted messaging app. For a more detailed guide, see this guide for android and this for iOS.
Lock & Encrypt
Anticipating how data on your devices could be confiscated as evidence is a scary thought. You don’t need to know how encryption works, but it’s important to verify that all your devices have it enabled. By default, full disk encryption is enabled on Android and iOS devices (although it doesn’t hurt to check). It’s just as important to do the same for your laptops and other computers. It’s likely that your operating system has encryption enabled by default, but it’s worth checking. Here’s how to search for MacOSand also for Windows. Linux users should look for guidance on their choice of distribution and learn how to enable full disk encryption from there.
Delete and turn off
Deleting things from your phone or computer isn’t as easy as it sounds. When it comes to sensitive data, you want to make sure everything is done right.
When deleting pictures from your phone, make sure you remove them from the Recently Deleted folders. Here is a Guide to Permanently Erase iOS. Similar to iOS, Android’s Google Photos app requires you to delete photos from the “Bin” folder, which stores recently deleted images for a period of time.
For your computer, using “secure erase” features on Windows or macOS is a good choice, but not as important as ensuring full disk encryption is enabled (discussed in the section above).
If you’re particularly concerned that someone might learn about a particular place you’re traveling to, or simply turning off your phone and leaving your laptop at home is the simplest and most foolproof solution. Only you can decide if the risk outweighs the benefit of leaving your phone on while commuting to or from a clinic or abortion event. For more reading, Here’s our guide to safely participating in a protestwhat may be useful for you to make this decision for yourself.