California Legislation to Protect Those Who Conduct Search for Abortion, Gender Affirming Care Receiving Big Support

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By Citlalli Florez

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced Assembly Bill 793 nearly four months ago here at the State Capital to protect unconstitutional searches of personal data, which would support safer access to reproductive and gender-affirming care – the legislation is expected to be approved soon.

Assemblymember Bonta stated, “With states across the country passing anti-abortion and anti-trans legislation, it’s vital that California shore up our protections against digital tracking of vulnerable people seeking healthcare.”

Bonta continued, “This legislation will put a stop to unconstitutional ‘reverse warrants’ – preserving our digital privacy and protecting Californians’ right to live life on our own terms.”

The Assembly Bill would target a dragnet surveillance demand in which tech companies could be asked to search records and reveal the identities of everyone who has looked up a keyword or has even gone down a specific street.

Dragnet Surveillance demands are also known as “reverse warrants,” “geofence warrants” or “keyword warrants.” They enable law enforcement in various states to request the names and identities of people who, according to the bill author’s office, have all “spent time near a California abortion clinic or searched for information about gender-affirming care.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit focused on defending civil liberties in the digital world such as defending free speech online, fighting illegal surveillance,  has recently released an action alert which claims that such has also falsely led police to arrest people and that companies such as Google has seen a sharp increase in Dragnet Surveillance Demands.

According to the Senior Legislative Activist at the EFF, Hayley Tsukayama, “between 2018 and 2020, Google received more than 5,700 reverse warrant demands from states that now have anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legislation on the books.”

Tsukayama continued, “As a worldwide leader in technology and innovation, California is uniquely positioned to divest from digital surveillance that would target people for having an abortion or seeking reproductive and gender-affirming care.”

Becca Cramer-Mowder, the Legislative Advocate at ACLU California Action, commented, “Carrying a smartphone, using social media, and allowing apps to know your location has become part of our daily routines…but it means that each of us has a vast data trail that is vulnerable to government abuse.”

Mowder noted, “”Anti-abortion police and prosecutors have used digital data to criminalize people for their abortion long before Roe v. Wade was overturned, and law enforcement in other states have already abused reverse warrants to identify people protesting police violence. We need to put a stop to this type of dragnet surveillance.”

Senior Policy Advocate at If/When/How, an organization focused on lawyering for reproductive justice,  Myra Durán, added, “As states across the country pass anti-abortion legislation, it’s vital that states like California do everything in their power to create protections against digital tracking.”

Durán added, “Our digital surveillance infrastructure has been weaponized again and again to surveil, target, and criminalize Black, brown, and Indigenous people, poor people, immigrants, and queer and trans people.”

Durán argued, “No one should face or fear criminalization for their abortion or gender affirming care. Criminalization creates a detrimental life-long domino effect- people can lose their jobs, housing, custody of their children, immigration status, and community. When we decide to end our pregnancies, we should be able to do so with dignity, and without fear of being arrested, investigated or jailed.”

Assemblymember Bonta explained, “With every technological advancement, there is an opportunity for abuse. None is scarier than the potential for the abuse to invade personal and private healthcare decisions.”

More than 50 reproductive justice, civil liberties, and privacy groups have signed in support AB 793. Other states have also taken action to protect people from reverse warrants, such as New York, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

About The Author

Citlalli Florez is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently majoring in Legal Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Art Practice. She intends to attend law school in the future with the purpose of gaining skills to further serve her community.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    I strongly support the passage of AB 793 to protect Californians from “fishing expeditions”. People deserve strong privacy rights. 😀

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