Digital Safety and Privacy Tips for Those Involved in Abortion Access

Legislation that mandates people to seek, sue and collect damages from anyone who tries to help people seeking abortions creates serious risks to the digital privacy and security of those involved in accessing to abortion. Patients, family members and friends, doctors, nurses, clinic staff, reproductive rights activists, abortion counselors and website operators, insurers and even drivers who help bring patients to clinics can face serious privacy and security risks. Other legislation that does not depend on the deputizing of “bounty hunters,” but instead criminalizes abortion, poses even greater risks.

People affected by anti-abortion laws can, if they choose, take steps to better protect their privacy and safety. Although there is no single digital security solution, some likely risks are clear. One set of concerns relates to law enforcement and state actors, who may have expensive and sophisticated surveillance technology, as well as warrants and subpoenas. For this reason, using non-technical approaches in combination with technical approaches may be more effective in protecting you. Private actors in states with “bounty laws” may also try to obtain subpoena power from a court (to seek information associated with your ISP address, for example, or other data that might be collected by the services you use). But it is perhaps even simpler to protect oneself from this “private surveillance” by technical means. This guide will cover some of each.

Developing risk awareness and a routine for keeping your data private and secure takes practice. Whether the concern is about digital surveillance, like tracking the websites you’ve visited or attempts to obtain personal communications using the courts, it’s good to start by thinking at a high level about ways to improve your overall security and maintain your online activities. private. Then, as you understand the potential scope of risks you may face, you can focus on the tools and techniques that best suit your concerns. Here are some high level tips to get you started. We recommend pairing them with some specific guides that we have highlighted here. To be clear, it’s nearly impossible to design a perfect security strategy, but good practices can help.

1: Compartmentalisation

Essentially, it involves doing your best to separate the most sensitive activities from your day-to-day activities. Compartmentalizing your digital footprint can include developing the habit of never re-using passwords, having separate browsers for different purposes, and backing up sensitive data to external drives.

Recommendations:

  • Use different browsers for different use cases. More private browsers like DuckDuckGo, Brave, and Firefox are better for more sensitive activities. Keeping browsers separate can protect you from accidentally spilling data from one aspect of your life into another.
  • Use a secondary email address and/or phone number to register sensitive accounts or give them to contacts you don’t want to associate too closely with. Google Voice is a free secondary phone number. Protonmail and Tutanota are free email services that offer many privacy protections that more mainstream providers like Gmail don’t, such as end-to-end encryption when sending emails also on Protonmail and Tutanota, and fewer built-in tracking mechanisms on the service itself.
  • Use a vpn when you need to decouple your internet connection from what you do online. Beware of VPN products that are sold as panacea solutions.
  • If you are going to/returning from a place that is more likely to have increased surveillance, or if you are particularly worried about who might know you are there, turn off your devices or their location services can help keep your location private.

2: Community agreements

It’s likely that others in your community share your digital privacy concerns. Deciding for yourself what information is safer to share with your community, and then coming together to decide what kind of information can’t be shared outside of the group, is a great non-technical way to solve many security issues of information. Think about it in three levels: what information should you not share with anyone? What information can you share with a smaller, more trusted group? And what information is good to share publicly?

Recommendations:

  • Find special phrases to hide sensitive communications.
  • Push a culture of consent when it comes to sharing data about each other, be it images, personal information, etc. Asking permission first is a good way to build trust and communication with each other.
  • Agree to communicate with each other on more secure platforms like Signal, or offline.

3: Safe Browsing

Your browser data can violate your privacy and security in several ways, or be used against you. Limiting unwanted tracking and reducing the likelihood of data from different parts of your life leaking into each other is a great way to boost protection.

Recommendations:

  • Install privacy-preserving browser extensions on all the browsers you use. Privacy Badger, uBlock Origin, and DuckDuckGo are great options.
  • Use a privacy-focused search engine, like DuckDuckGo.
  • Carefully review the privacy settings of each app and account you use. Disable location services on phone apps that don’t need them. Raise the bar on privacy settings for most, if not all, of your online accounts.
  • Disable Ad ID on mobile devices. Advertising IDs are specifically designed to facilitate tracking by third parties, and disabling them makes it more difficult for you to be profiled. Instructions for Android devices are hereand for iOS devices here.
  • Choose a browser with a more private design. DuckDuckGo on mobile and Firefox (with privacy settings enabled) on desktop are good options.

4: Security Checklists

Make a list of tools, techniques, and practices to use when doing something that requires a little more care when it comes to digital privacy and security. It’s not only good to have so you don’t forget anything, but it’s extremely useful when you find yourself in a higher stress situation, where trying to remember these things is far from your mind’s priority. .

Recommendations:

  • Tools: VPNs to hide your location and bypass local internet censorship, encrypted messaging apps to avoid surveillance, and anonymized credit cards to separate financial transactions from your day-to-day personality.
  • Strategies: use special code words with trusted people to hide information in plain sight; connect with someone via encrypted chat when you’re about to do something sensitive; turn off location services on your cell phone before you go somewhere, and back up and delete sensitive data from your primary device.

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