House Passes Location Shield Act

JULY 10, 2024

Representative Connolly joined with this Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the House today to pass H.4844An Act providing protections for reproductive or gender-affirming care location information. This bill protects the privacy of individuals seeking reproductive and gender-affirming care by prohibiting the sale of cellphone data collected during visits to health care facilities in Massachusetts that offer those services. Representative Connolly is also proud to be a co-sponsor of the original draft of this bill.

"I am very proud to vote in support of protecting individuals accessing reproductive and gender-affirming care from the harms of surveillance by data brokers and their clients," Representative Connolly said. "While I emphatically support a more comprehensive data privacy regulatory framework, today's vote is a crucial first step in protecting the privacy of vulnerable patients."

Currently, data brokers can sell data tracking the location of cellphone users. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, it was reported that location data firms were selling location information related to patients’ visits to Planned Parenthood facilities, which could then be used to target and harass those individuals and providers. 

The bill passed today seeks to protect the privacy of patients by prohibiting companies from collecting and processing an individual’s reproductive or gender affirming care location information unless it’s for a permissible purpose, such as a response to an emergency service agency, or if the individual was provided with a location privacy policy and subsequently granted consent to such policy. The Attorney General would issue regulations related to this law, such as location privacy policies and consent, and have the authority to enforce it under Chapter 93A.

Although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts due to the passage of An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access (the ROE Act) in 2020, which codified and expanded access to reproductive rights, the Legislature took additional action in 2022 to further protect those rights, and established additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2022, the Legislature passed comprehensive legislation to provide legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers; to expand access to contraceptives; and to help ensure that women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to access reproductive health care services.

Having passed the House of Representatives 159-0, An Act providing protections for reproductive or gender-affirming care location information now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Thank you to Speaker Mariano and Chair Michlewitz for bringing this bill forward today, to Reps. Lipper-Garabedian, Farley-Bouvier, and Chan for the work on it, and to Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Equity Now, and the ACLU of Massachusetts for their advocacy.