Facebook Is Dodging Questions About Surveillance of Users Seeking Abortions

A group of data journalists have uncovered evidence that Facebook is collecting sensitive personal information about people who visit the websites of so-called crisis pregnancy centers

Journalists at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting reported Wednesday that Meta had declined to answers questions about the data it collects from the imitation clinics through a tracking tool called Pixel.

Currently installed on millions of websites, Pixel is ostensibly designed to help businesses target specific audiences using Facebook ads.

The tracker also appears to be collecting sensitive information about users with an interest in abortion care, which the crisis centers can use to target ads and which raises questions about potentially far more nefarious uses.

Meta have explicit rules around the collection of what it calls “sensitive health information”—data that might indicate, for instance, what drugs a user takes, or whether they’ve used a particular medical device, or are diagnosed with a particular condition.

An algorithm is tasked with identifying this type of information based on certain undisclosed “signals” and filtering it out of Meta’s data collection, which purportedly prevents illicit data from being ingested by its advertising platform.

Meta also claims that it avoids collecting data related to sexual and reproductive health. But as Reveal has discovered, Facebook is collecting information on users who visit certain medically relevant websites

Reveal discovered that at least 294 crisis pregnancy centers had shared visitor information with Meta, this includes information that can indicate whether someone is considering an abortion such as their interest in an appointment.

That personal data can be used in a number of ways. The centers can deliver targeted advertising, on Facebook or elsewhere, aimed at deterring an individual from getting an abortion.

It can be used to build anti-abortion ad campaigns – and spread misinformation about reproductive health – targeted at people with similar demographics and interests.


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