A Denver-based data broker said Tuesday it will stop selling information on visits to abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood facilities, following a report from Vice about how easy it was to access the information and concerns about how it may be used.
The role that data collection plays in abortion rights is drawing more scrutiny after a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortions nationwide, leaked and was reported by Politico earlier this week.
There is a concern that information could be used by “anti-abortion vigilantes” to harass or target people seeking and providing abortions. The data gathered by the company, SafeGraph, showed where people traveled to a clinic based on their census block, reported Vice.
Colorado abortion providers expect more people to travel to the state for abortions if Roe v. Wade is officially overturned as other states are poised to ban the procedure outright. Colorado was one of the first states to loosen restrictions on legal abortions and now affirms the right to the procedure in state law.
SafeGraph’s data, which it says is aggregated and anonymized, includes information on where businesses are located, when they’re open, what businesses are nearby, the physical shape of a building and how people interact with place, according to a statement by the company.
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The data tries to answer “how often people visit, how long they stay, where they came from, where else they go, and more,” according to the company’s website.
A representative with SafeGraph declined to comment for this story and instead pointed to the statement on the company’s website, which said it is removing “patterns data” for locations classified as family planning centers “to curtail any potential misuse” of the information. It will still provide location and operating hour information for the centers, such as Planned Parenthood.
“We don’t have any indication that this data has ever been used for bad purposes,” the company said in a statement. “We have had many academics that have used this type of data for really good purposes. Taking away this data will impact many academics that want to study this topic (like understanding the impact of legislation on family planning visits).”