International Women's Rights Day is a time to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and the challenges that still need to be addressed. The data privacy domain is no exception; much work must be done there too. In fact, women’s data privacy is often compromised, and women are statistically more likely to be targeted in cybercriminal activities than men.
One specific topic of gender inequality in terms of data privacy breaches, is women's reproductive health data. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that many health apps and websites that collect data on reproductive health, such as menstrual cycle tracking apps, share user data with third-party companies without the user's knowledge. This can lead to women's private health information being exposed without their consent.
If health data is not properly protected, it could be accessed by unauthorised parties or used for malicious purposes. For instance, hackers could gain access to electronic health records and use the sensitive information contained within them for identity theft or financial fraud. This means that hackers can use a patient's medical insurance information to receive medical services or purchase prescription drugs for example. Alternatively, health data could be used by insurers to discriminate against women based on their health status or pre-existing conditions, leading to denied job opportunities, or higher insurance premiums. Additionally, personal health information that is shared on social media or other online platforms could be used to exploit or target women as well as men for marketing purposes or other nefarious activities.
In recent years, women have become increasingly concerned about their privacy. In the USA, it is especially the case due to abortion tracking. Abortion is a controversial and deeply personal issue that has been the subject of intense political debate in the United States as well as in other developed countries for decades. Despite the US Supreme Court affirming a woman's right to choose an abortion, the issue remains highly politicised and divisive.
Specific cases arose of location data firms selling access to caches of data; this included heat maps on their website that revealed where people visiting Planned Parenthood abortion clinics lived. Due to the automatic activation of their GPS functionality, our devices are able to track our movements, thereby creating heat maps such as these ones.
The main question here is: Is it ethical or even legal to track women’s activity from their electronic devices, without their consent, to know if they would be likely to abort?
In general, it is important to protect individuals' privacy rights and ensure that they have access to safe and legal reproductive health services, including abortion. Tracking individuals' health data without their consent - for any reason - is a violation of their privacy and could have serious legal and ethical implications. It is crucial that proper measures are put in place to safeguard women's health data and ensure that it is only accessible to authorised parties for legitimate purposes.
In the meantime, women as well as men can take back control of their privacy by choosing not to be tracked, hacked or listened to, by using FERRONATO bags and accessories. Privacy is a fundamental right, and at FERRONATO we aim to protect it.
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