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Abortion surveillance: in a post-Roe world, could an internet search lead to an arrest? | Abortion

A leaked draft opinion suggesting the US supreme court may overturn the landmark abortion rights decision Roe v Wade has renewed concerns over the ways US law enforcement could ask tech companies to hand over Americans’ data if they were to prosecute individuals getting or providing abortion services.

Tech firms and data brokers already collect, store and often sell years’ worth of information on their users. There are few federal regulations that protect such data, making the information, which includes data on location, internet searches, and communication history, extremely valuable and easily accessible to law enforcement.

That data could also make it easy for law enforcement to track down people searching for information on or seeking abortions in states where the practice would get criminalized, heightening the need for data privacy regulation, healthy individual “digital security hygiene” and better company data retention policies.

“The biggest harms are going to be that all of this data that is being collected about location, people’s health, menstrual health and pregnancies is going to be now used to find and prosecute people who may be seeking these services or who may not even be seeking these services,” Cooper Quintin, a senior staff technologist at digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said. “I’m concerned that all this data that’s already out there that’s already been collected and is just sitting in data silos is going to be used for mass prosecutions, mass arrests and do real significant harm.”

While there are steps individual users can take to protect themselves and minimize the data they are handing over to companies that can be requested by law enforcement, Quintin says the decisions companies make when it comes to user data could have far-reaching implications.

“There’s a 100% parallel to climate change – it gets framed a lot as an individual consumer issue when it’s really up to corporations and institutions that are doing the most damage and need to do the most work to solve it,” he said.

How police could search for abortion seekers

The digital security concerns around abortion are already playing out in several US states. “Even though abortion is still legal today in all 50 states, the reality is that many people in this country already live in a post-Roe world and dozens of people have been criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes,” Elizabeth Ling, a senior helpline counsel at the reproductive legal hotline If/When/How.

As a result, many people opt for a “self-managed” abortion where they get pills mailed to them rather than going into local clinics, Ling said. The internet has made self-managed abortion options more accessible to those seeking legal and safe abortion routes outside a medical setting. But it has also created a digital footprint that makes an individual’s effort to seek abortion much more easily tracked.

Already, information such as a person’s internet search for abortion pills has been used in cases dealing with miscarriages and pregnancy termination. “If Roe is overturned, the need to self-manage abortion is certainly going to increase and the surveillance of people seeking abortion care will be at an all-time high,” she said.

Today, there are several avenues law enforcement can use to access user data. Agencies can simply access your phone, whether at the border or through a subpoena. Law enforcement and government agencies can also buy user information through data brokers, companies such as Lexis Nexis, Equifax and X Mode, that collect, buy and sell user information. Or they can issue subpoenas and warrants to tech companies requesting the data those companies have collected.

Different types of law enforcement requests to tech companies yield different types of user information. In some cases, tech companies can only turn over an individual’s subscriber information in response to certain subpoenas. But there are also broader warrants that law enforcement is increasingly using that can capture a wide net of consumers’ information, such as geofence warrants and keyword search warrants.

In both these cases, law enforcement asks a tech company for information on any and all the devices that meet certain conditions. In the case of geofence warrants, police seek all the devices that are in a certain place at a certain time. For keyword search warrants, police seek all the information for devices that search for a certain term on the internet.

Police have used geofence warrants, for instance, to get a list of people who had been near an alleged crime scene at the approximate time that it occurred. Already, people have come forward about being suspected or arrested for a crime they didn’t commit simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A keyword search warrant that seeks the device information for all of those who’ve searched for an abortion pill or a geofence warrant that seeks everyone who was in or around a Planned Parenthood, for instance, is not out of the realm of reality in a post-Roe world. These can all be used to gain access to information on, and potentially criminalize, people who are searching for or researching abortions, Quintin said.

While there are a few steps consumers can take to try to limit the information they’re sharing with companies that can then end up in the hands of law enforcement, companies have the most power to protect users, he said. “First, I would really love for companies to stop working with data brokers, and stop selling location data to these data brokers,” he said. But the most important thing companies can do is to reduce the amount of data they store on their users, especially since they may not have the power or ability to refuse a legal request like a court-ordered subpoena.

“Any company that doesn’t want to be responsible for the massive amount of harm that’s going to come from this needs to start taking concrete steps to data minimization right now,” Quintin said. “So data brokers, stop holding on to any data that’s not absolutely necessary. Companies, make it easy for your customers to actually delete their data.”

Quintin also said companies need to encrypt any customer data that they do store in a way that only allows consumers to decrypt it. “But that’s a technological challenge that not every company is willing to face, although I would argue that they should, especially companies dealing with women’s health.”

How to practice ‘digital security hygiene’

While the lion’s share of the responsibility falls to the corporations that profit from the sale of data, experts say there’s still quite a bit individuals can do to practice good “digital security hygiene”.

“Understandably, people may be concerned about how their efforts to learn about their legal rights and options for ending a pregnancy in order to make the best decision for themselves may be used against them as evidence,” Ling said. “People can go to the Repro Legal Helpline’s resource on internet safety to learn about steps they can take, such as using a VPN, secure messaging apps like Signal, or prevent others from seeing their search history if they are sharing a device.”

In addition to consulting EFF’s surveillance survival guide, Quintin said people providing or seeking abortions should consider leaving their phones behind or if they can’t do that then turning their phone and location services off. “Those are reasonable steps to take if you think that the thing you’re doing is going to be criminalized,” he said. He also said that people should have the disappearing messages feature turned on when they use services like WhatsApp and Signal and to use Tor browsers to avoid having their web browser history tracked and saved.

Abortion providers have a more intense threat model because they are in danger of physical attacks, but they can take the same steps as individuals, he said. “It’s the same principle of data minimization: leave as little data behind as you possibly can.”

While there are not many secure appointment booking software options abortion clinics and providers can use, Quintin said he suspects “that is something that every provider is thinking really hard about right now.”

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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