An American teenager from Nebraska is currently being prosecuted for allegedly aborting a pregnancy. In the course of the investigation, the internet giant Facebook is said to have passed on incriminating chat messages from those affected to the authorities. On this occasion, experts argue in favor of encrypting their own communication in the network and keeping the personal data on the servers of the tech companies as small as possible.
The case is now of particular concern because of abortion rights in the United States, which have recently been revoked. Many critics feared that the user data stored by tech companies could be used against people seeking an abortion.
Private chats evaluated
The data transfer in the current case from Nebraska apparently occurred before the Supreme Court ruling in June. Facebook gave the details of a mother and her daughter to the police for an illegal abortion based on a search warrant. In private messages, the defendants are said to have exchanged views about how to arrange an abortion themselves, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.
They are accused of violating a law in Nebraska that prohibits abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The teen initially told police she had had a miscarriage.
Facebook defends sharing
Facebook itself defended the procedure: the search warrant from early June contained no reference to an abortion, but referred to a police investigation into the stillborn baby, a spokesperson for parent company Meta said.
Experts recommend encrypted chats
As a result of the procedure, experts now advise extra caution with private information on the Internet. True end-to-end encryption of the messages would have made it impossible for Facebook to release the data, technology expert Albert Fox Cahn told The Guardian. However, as of today, Facebook and Instagram messages are not end-to-end encrypted by default. Users must actively select this option.
However, data protection experts generally recommend sharing as little information about yourself on social networks as possible. So the only way the tech companies can’t share it is by not sharing it at all.