OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a multistate coalition of 10 attorneys general in a letter urging Apple to take steps to better protect consumers’ private reproductive health information in third-party apps hosted in Apple’s App Store. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, at least 14 states have restricted or criminalized abortion care. In the face of these unprecedented threats to reproductive freedom, sensitive health data and digital information can be weaponized against those seeking or providing reproductive care by law enforcement, private entities, and individuals in anti-choice states. In the letter, the attorneys general express concerns over third-party apps’ collection of users' private information – such as their search histories, location, and sensitive health data – that could be misused in order to target individuals seeking or providing abortions or other reproductive healthcare, and call on Apple to institute additional measures to strengthen privacy in their App Store.
“California leads the nation when it comes to digital privacy and reproductive freedom. We’re calling on tech companies like Apple, who call our state home, to lead by example as well,” said Attorney General Bonta. “With reproductive rights under attack across the nation, our fight to protect reproductive freedom has never been more crucial. We urge Apple to heed our call and protect their users from attempts to regulate their bodies and curtail their freedom by improving consumer protections for third-party apps in the App Store.”
Apple has promoted privacy as one of its core values on both the iOS platform and the App Store, and has adopted a number of privacy and security measures that are consistent with its stated goals of protecting consumers’ privacy. For example, Apple ensures that Apple Health data — including reproductive data — is automatically encrypted. It also provides privacy controls that allow consumers to limit apps’ access to certain sensitive information and requires apps to request permissions only when needed to provide service. Given Apple’s consistent promotion of its commitment to privacy, consumers reasonably expect the same from the third-party apps that Apple allows on the App Store. However, third-party apps that sync with Apple Health, as well as apps that independently collect reproductive health data from consumers, frequently fail to meet these same standards.
In the letter, the coalition of attorneys general urge Apple to safeguard reproductive health information from being wrongfully exploited by those who would use it to harm patients or providers by requiring app developers whose apps are offered or sold in the App Store to either certify to Apple or affirmatively represent in their privacy policies that they will take the following three measures:
These proposed measures would safeguard reproductive health information from being wrongfully exploited by those who would use it to harm pregnant people or providers and are consistent with Apple’s professed promises of privacy protection on the App Store.
Attorney General Bonta is a leader when it comes to defending and expanding reproductive freedom. In October, Attorney General Bonta launched the California Reproductive Rights Task Force, bringing together legal and law enforcement partners to protect reproductive rights in the state. That same month, Attorney General Bonta issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement on addressing out-of-state agencies who may seek to investigate, arrest, or prosecute out-of-state patients seeking reproductive care in the state and those who assist with such care. In September, he issued a consumer alert to help Californians safeguard their privacy while accessing reproductive or abortion care. He also issued legal guidance on California's prohibition of the extradition of individuals providing or accessing reproductive care in California. In June, the Attorney General issued guidance on abortion rights and protections under California law, which remain fully intact, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. In preparation for the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Attorney General Bonta issued an information bulletin to law enforcement to remind them of state laws protecting access to reproductive healthcare and security for providers. He also issued a consumer alert warning Californians seeking reproductive health services about the limited and potentially misleading nature of the services provided by crisis pregnancy centers, and emphasized health apps’ obligations under California law to protect and secure reproductive health information.
A copy of the letter is available here.