Privacy organizations, legal groups and abortion rights advocates fear that state law enforcement may issue broad warrants for information such as Internet search histories or phone location data to identify people seeking abortion care or to obtain records of patients who use online abortion services.

Some states could try to punish people who travel to another state for a legal abortion and return to their home state, said Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University College of Law professor and legal battle expert on the abortion.

“It’s not going to be a scenario where the red and blue states are likely to leave each other alone,” Ziegler said.

Abortion rights groups fear the surveillance — which advocacy groups say may be unconstitutional — could be used to prosecute people who have abortions, making it even more daunting to have the procedures in a post-deer world.

Several telemedicine abortion groups told POLITICO they are hesitant to make details of safe practices public, but others have discussed some ways they are preparing for the impending Supreme Court ruling.

Choice, an online reproductive health clinic, does not collect data about the condition patients live in — just where they seek care — to protect privacy, CTO Mark Adam said. The company’s legal counsel is looking for ways to defend patients and providers, Adam added.

Online abortion information guide Plan C said it assesses how to protect against potential vulnerabilities, whether from hackers or governments.

“It’s strange to think about this in the United States of America, but surely these are strange times for privacy and free speech,” said Plan C co-founder Elisa Wells, adding that the Virtual care providers are concerned about the court’s potential impact on privacy. and security. “All of this is very concerning.”

Choice, along with the ACLU and privacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, urge people seeking abortion drugs to use web browsers like DuckDuckGo or Tor that limit data tracking. The groups also promote encrypted messaging apps like Signal.

Most efforts by states seeking to limit access to abortion have focused on providers, not individual patients, although a recently scrapped Louisiana bill would have allowed prosecutors to charge people who have had abortions with homicide.

Sue Swayze Liebel, Director of State Abortion Awareness Policy rights group Susan B. Anthony List, said that to crack down on virtual abortions, states would target pharmaceutical companies and groups supplying the pills online, not individuals.

“From an enforcement perspective, states are trying to be creative,” Liebel said. “It’s going to break on the business side, not on the women’s side. … Law enforcement should use the tools at their disposal to crack down on those who commit illegal activities and violate their laws.

But those assurances aren’t enough for abortion rights and privacy organizations, which have long worried about how digital fingerprints can be used against people who have had abortions. For example, in 2018, Mississippi prosecutors used online search records linked to buying abortion pills to charge a woman with murdering what her lawyers said was a stillborn baby, although the charges were later dropped.

“There may be a race to the bottom in terms of the types of information and investigative techniques to be leveraged in service of these laws,” said Nate Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. . “Clearly we’re going to see some aggressive investigations probably quite quickly.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Called the potential of online surveillance a “five-alarm crisis” and “uterine surveillance” at an Aspen Institute event last week, criticizing data brokers that sell information about people who have abortions. Privacy hawks lament the lack of a federal privacy law to protect consumer data that has long been stalled in Congress.

It’s easy for law enforcement to get data that could link people to abortions because many people don’t know how to protect their privacy, Ziegler said. Law enforcement has increasingly used “dragnet” warrants, for example, to identify the location of anyone whose phone was in an area at a certain time, Wessler said.

Many abortion providers use third-party ad trackers on their websites from which law enforcement can purchase data, Cahn said. And ads for virtual abortion care on Facebook and Instagram may collect data on how users interact with the ads, he added.

Credit card information can also be distinguished, Wessler said, urging companies to keep “as little data as possible.” Choice collects data only on what is deemed necessary, something it’s still working on, Adam said.

“All of this information is within a court order of being a police tool,” Cahn said.