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Whitmer Calls on Big Tech to Protect Data and Privacy


August 31, 2022



Gov. Whitmer Calls on Big Tech to Protect Data and Privacy

Governor’s letter requests immediate action to protect privacy as efforts are underway to use personal data to target women seeking health care, prosecute nurses and doctors

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to the leaders of Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft, five of the world’s biggest tech companies that manage nearly every American’s data. She called on them to take additional steps to protect people’s data, especially health data, as extremists try to weaponize it to go after women seeking reproductive health care and prosecute nurses and doctors for doing their jobs. She also called on the companies to be more transparent about what data they are providing and to whom. This letter follows reports of law enforcement in other states using Facebook data to go after women seeking abortion care. Today’s action builds on the governor’s leadership to protect reproductive freedom.

“Every Michigander deserves privacy and control over their data, which includes so much personal information about our health, habits, and lives,” said Governor Whitmer. “We know the risks of someone getting access to our data. If it fell into the wrong hands, our digital footprint could tell someone where we are, who we were with, what we bought—even intimate details about our health. Without adequate protections, that data could be used to go after women seeking reproductive health care or to prosecute nurses and doctors for doing their jobs. Amid an ongoing assault on women’s bodily autonomy by extremists who do not hesitate to use location and health data to target Michiganders, we must do more to protect everyone’s fundamental right to privacy. While some elected officials take steps to control and surveil women, nurses, and doctors, I am fighting like hell to protect Michiganders’ freedom and privacy.”

As custodians of our most sensitive data, Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft have a responsibility to protect their customers and their privacy,” continued Governor Whitmer. I am grateful for the steps you have already taken—to varying degrees—to enhance digital privacy, but your work to protect our data must be an ongoing effort. Trust—in government and the private sector—is a precious resource, and firms that value privacy will benefit their shareholders by fostering a transparent relationship that prioritizes the needs of their users."

Background on Governor Whitmer’s Letter to Big Tech

The governor’s letter called on Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft to bolster their efforts to protect personal data. As reproductive freedom is under attack and extremists seek to use location and health data to go after women, nurses, and doctors, the governor called on big tech to do more to protect their fundamental right to privacy and bodily autonomy. Her letter asked them to do the following:

  1. Provide users with clearer mechanisms to opt out of data retention and sharing for sensitive health information, including any sale of such data to third parties. These mechanisms should be paired with additional steps to protect user data, such as automatically deleting such data after a set period of time. 
  2. User information should be provided to law enforcement only in response to requests that conform to the relevant law. Whenever legally possible, companies must notify users when law enforcement make a request for their communications or personal information. 
  3. Companies must make information publicly available about requests they receive for sensitive health data and other information that could be used to prosecute women for seeking health care. They must publish and regularly update information about all such requests received for user communications or information concerning reproductive health or other health matters, including search histories. 

To view the full letter, click the link below:

Letter to Big Tech on Data Privacy Protections.pdf 

Governor Whitmer’s Actions to Protect Reproductive Freedom

  • April 7: Filed a lawsuit to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s constitution protects the right to an abortion.
  • April 7: Penned an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press explaining her action and highlighting that 7 in 10 Michiganders support the rights affirmed by Roe.
  • May 3: Joined 16 other states to urge the United States Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and enshrine Roe’s protections in federal law.
  • May 9: Penned an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why she isn’t waiting for Congress to act and urging fellow pro-choice governors, state representatives, private businesses, and citizens to take action to protect reproductive rights.
  • May 25: Signed an executive directive instructing state of Michigan departments and agencies to identify and assess opportunities to increase protections for reproductive healthcare, such as contraception. The executive directive also instructs departments not to cooperate with or assist authorities of any state in any investigation or proceeding against anyone for obtaining, providing, or assisting someone else to obtain or provide reproductive healthcare that is legal where the health care is provided.
  • June 23: Launched a new consumer website to educate Michiganders about the availability of no-cost contraception with most insurance plans.
  • June 24: On the day of the Dobbs decision, filed a motion urging the Court to immediately consider her lawsuit.
  • June 27: Followed up with an additional notice to the Court urging them to immediately consider her lawsuit.
  • June 29: Sent a letter to Michigan’s insurers urging them to take steps to ensure Michiganders have coverage for reproductive health care to the fullest extent possible under current coverage.
  • July 6: Joined with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to launch a public effort to educate Michiganders and health care providers about the difference between emergency contraception and medication abortion. The public effort will disseminate information about the differences between medication abortion and emergency contraception to all local health departments throughout Michigan, healthcare providers throughout the state, and the public.
  • July 7: Called on the federal government to clarify and protect Michiganders’ right to cross the US-Canada border to seek reproductive health care or prescription medication including medication abortion.
  • July 11: Urged President Biden to make birth control available over the counter without a prescription.
  • July 13: Signed an executive order refusing to extradite women or health care providers who come to Michigan seeking reproductive freedom.
  • July 22: Called on FDA to reduce barriers to medication abortion.
  • August 1: Secured a restraining order blocking certain county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 abortion ban after a court cleared a path for them to do so earlier on the same day.
  • August 3: Went to court to defend the restraining order and won.
  • August 4: Filed renewed request with Michigan Supreme Court to protect right to abortion.
  • August 4: Submitted legal brief to prevent enforcement of extreme 1931 abortion ban.
  • August 10: Filed motion for a preliminary injunction against 1931 abortion ban in Oakland County Circuit Court.
  • August 19: Won a preliminary injunction against the 1931 abortion ban, protecting legal abortion in Michigan until the Michigan Supreme Court takes up the governor’s lawsuit or Michiganders vote to protect women’s fundamental rights.