The news caused an outcry against Facebook, which had vowed to protect its own employees’ access to abortions. Privacy experts have warned that prosecutors could serve warrants to tech companies requesting location data, messages or search history to help corroborate whether someone had or aided an abortion. They have also warned that apps, such as those used by many women to track their menstrual cycles, could be used to reveal personal medical histories.
But tech companies may have little choice but to comply with court orders. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said the company “received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court’s decision,” on abortion. The warrants did not mention abortion, the company said, but noted that the police were investigating “the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant.”
Dana Sussman, the acting executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said that was not an uncommon approach. “What we have been saying consistently is that it will almost never say ‘abortion’ in the search warrant that you receive,” she said, adding, “It’s feticide charges, it’s manslaughter charges, it’s murder charges, child abuse, felony child neglect.”
Meta has said that it fights against requests it believes are invalid or too broad. According to a transparency report published by the company, covering the second half of 2021, the company gave investigators information in about 88 percent of the 59,996 times when the government requested data.
Meta has announced that it is working on the global rollout of end-to-end encrypted messages by 2023, which would help ensure that no outside party, including Meta, could access message contents.
Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, a majority of prosecutions focused on providers. In more recent times, pregnancy loss has been criminalized in a variety of ways.