House Democrats Seek Responses from Meta about its Data Sharing Guidelines

On August 31, 2022, Democrats from the Committee on Energy and Commerce composed a letter for the Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to convey their worries concerning the sharing of personal communications to police authorities and want clarification about its data-sharing rules. The conversations between a mom and her daughter took place on Meta platforms regarding an unlawful abortion.

The police performed a criminal investigation involving Nebraska locals, 41-year-old Jessica Burgess, and her 18-year-old daughter, Celeste Burgess, because of a supposed unlawful abortion. The teen is purported to have had an illegal abortion after the 20th week, and buried the unborn child. After Roe v Wade was revoked, Nebraska made abortion unlawful over 20 weeks following fertilization.

The police started an investigation right after knowing that a 17-year-old suddenly gave birth to a baby born dead. The local law enforcement released a warrant to Meta to access the discussions between mom and daughter recorded on its platforms, based on a Deseret News report. Celeste Burgess faced charges of three felony counts: executing an unlawful abortion, carrying out the abortion with no licensed physician, and then hiding a dead body, together with two misdemeanors: hiding the death of a person and bogus reporting. Jessica Burgess faced charges on two counts: doing an unlawful abortion beyond 20 weeks and carrying out the abortion as a doctor with no license. Another 22-year-old man likewise faced a misdemeanor charge: trying to hide another person’s death.

Meta released an announcement about the reported case in the media hoping to correct the false stories, stating most of the reporting concerning Meta’s part in a criminal case involving a mom and daughter living in Nebraska is simply incorrect. Meta affirmed that the warrant did not mention any abortion. The legal warrants were issued by local authorities last June 7, prior to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Corporation. The warrants didn’t speak about abortion at all, as per Meta. Court files indicate that police were investigating the supposed unlawful burning and burial of an aborted baby. The warrants had non-disclosure requirements, which kept them from spreading data about them. The orders are already lifted.

The Committee Democrats are looking for responses from Meta about its privacy guidelines on the safety of the sensitive data of its platform users and how the firm makes sure personal data is safe while following legal accountabilities, particularly taking into consideration the company will probably get more requests from the authorities asking access to users’ sensitive information associated with unlawful abortions.

Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Diana DeGette, Chair Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, Jan Schakowsky, and Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health, Anna G. Eshoo, have asked for a briefing concerning how Meta treats personal information and its guidelines and procedures concerning the sharing of that information with authorities and other third parties.