The Woman Who Became a Business Has Lessons for a Post-Roe World

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In 2014, Jennifer Lyn Morone decided to protect her data the only way she could as an individual: she joined. Jennifer Lyn Morone Inc. operates as a data processing company independent of Morone, offering “a new business model which is designed to determine the value of an individual in relation to society and to the data he or she creates.” The project began as an exploration of market alternatives in response to the lack of federal data protection in the United States, an issue that has sparked renewed interest since the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade.

Our technology landscape tracks more than many realize, as Shoshana Zuboff describes in startling detail on every page of The age of surveillance capitalism: “Activity in the real world is continuously represented from phones, cars, streets, homes, stores, bodies, trees, buildings, airports, and cities to the digital realm, where it finds a new life as data ready to be transformed into predictions.” The association of data capture with pregnancy specifically has a strange media history. In 2012, Target faced a public relations scandal when certain purchases associated with a woman’s browsing profile led the company to send her pregnancy-related coupons, revealing her status to her family. Digital traces feed predictive algorithms that are used as evidence, even though the algorithms themselves remain black boxes because they constitute trade secrets to the corporations behind them.

Data brokers capture and sell personal, location, and health data that are used by police and others to harass, misinform, and criminalize pregnant women, among others, and, already, the The Border Patrol, the FBI, the IRS and the Secret Service have contracts with data brokers, an alternative to the laborious effort of seeking court orders. Anti-abortion groups have been associated with fertility health apps to identify users whose devices reveal their geolocation near a reproductive care clinic. The groups then try to target ads and misinformation at them while they sit in a waiting room browsing online. Information entered into self-report reproductive health applications is not protected by HIPAA, nor do companies provide travel support. for abortion careunless it is administered by a health insurance company.

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Online searches are just some of the data being mined by law enforcement with the rise of digital forensics. Latice Fisher in Mississippi was arrested, tried and jailed for a miscarriage because she had searched online for information about abortion; the prosecutor presented as evidence that he had committed feticide. In July 2022, criminal charges for a self-induced abortion were filed against 17-year-old Clarice Burgess based on a order to search your Facebook messages where he had spoken to his mother about his condition. In general, anyone using apps or websites should be careful. (Health and Human Services has a fact sheet for consumers on a better understanding of the public nature of the information placed in the applications).

People can produce data, but not own or protect it, raising far-reaching privacy concerns. Political scientists, economists, computer scientists and lawyers, among others, have spoken in favor of interpreting personal data as property. They argue that the rise of data analytics reinforces how data is a “asset created, manufactured, processed, stored, transferred, licensed, sold and stolen”, and dispute the argument that the lack of data from material substance it impacts his real and abstract relationship with each person. Alongside this academic debate, a host of companies have sprung up to help people benefit from their personal data, naturalizing this notion of ownership. data sharing 360 of me aims to centralize and contextualize personal information to help users cultivate greater self-knowledge, as well as guide the sale of said information. the CitizenMe The app gives users the opportunity to earn rewards from companies and charities that need data. digi.me helps users aggregate personal data to knowingly share it with responsible companies. BitKey uses blockchain technology to protect personal data, manage access, and enable sales leads.

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The “data as property” argument leans toward the market to alter the rights and regulations that affect tech companies that sweep up data on those who produce it. But it works? Morone took the aspirations of these intermediaries as an opportunity to investigate the potential for a free-market solution. The results were disappointing.

Corporate Precinct

When technology companies collect personal data from our walks and scrolls across various sites, they may not know how the data will be used, but they recognize its inherent value once it is combined, analyzed, and packaged for sale to advertisers and others. Everything we’re doing online, and everything that’s tracked about us offline, is an economic opportunity for businesses somewhere. The value? More of $1.5 billion, because now we are all the Six Million Dollar Man.

Since corporations can claim trade secrets, Morone decided to resist widespread data capture by incorporating herself so that the company, JLM Inc., contains the intellectual property and activities of the human Morone. If a corporation can be a person, maybe a person could be a corporation and thus protect their data! The articles of incorporation allow Morone data to qualify as intellectual property and are therefore intended to offer data marketplace protection. Morone’s human privacy is possible because he is the product and trade secret of JLM Inc., which is incorporated in the state of Delaware. With its own Court of Chancery that hears cases involving corporate law, Delaware’s legal structure is business-friendly. The state also does not collect corporate taxes from those who do business outside of the state or tax “intangible assets” such as data.

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