Bill in Washington Legislature would require period-tracking apps to follow privacy laws

OLYMPIA — When the Supreme Court struck down constitutional protections for abortion last June, concern grew over the use of period-tracking apps because they are not protected by federal privacy laws.

Privacy experts have said they fear pregnancies could be monitored, and that data could be passed on to police or sold to law enforcement.

Some Washington lawmakers want to change that and have introduced a bill related to how to share consumer data, KUOW reports.

Democrat Vandana Slaughter represents Washington’s 48th Legislative District, which covers most of Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland. She is a sponsor of House Bill 1155, which addresses the collection, sharing and sale of consumer health data.

“Someone can really follow you and target you in a way that can be really harmful,” Slaughter said.

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, protects medical files in your doctor’s office, but not information collected about you by third-party apps and technology companies. HIPAA also does not cover health histories collected by non-medical “crisis pregnancy centers” run by anti-abortion groups. This means that the information can be shared or sold to almost anyone.

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights piqued Slatter’s interest in medical privacy, she said. Her proposed measure would make it illegal to sell any type of health data.

Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen said he supports protecting individual privacy, but said the bill focuses too much on what he called hot-button issues.

“Why do we swear like we do about abortion?” Walsh said.

The bill is planned to be submitted to the Committee on Civil Rights and the Judiciary of the House of Representatives. A companion bill in the state Senate, SB 5351, is sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra, R-Redmond.

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