The same technology that sends you weird ad texts or updates whenever you walk into a Target or an American Eagle is being used to attack women contemplating abortions.
Geofencing is a marketing strategy where retailers put up a virtual “fence” around a particular location. When you cross the invisible barrier and enter that physical space, the program picks up the phone’s unique numerical ID, but only if you have your location services enabled.
Marketers can then pick up on your shopping habits and make pertinent ads or coupons for the stores you’re in magically appear on your social media or internet pages.
Now, Pro-lifers are using this creepily invasive program to set up invisible fences around Planned Parenthoods.
Targeting clinics — which was an idea crafted by enterprising anti-choicer and CEO of Copley Advertising, John Flynn — essentially tracks the women and employees of these reproductive health centers.
“Planned Parenthood clinics, abortion clinics, methadone clinics and high-risk areas” fenced and the women are subsequently hit up with ads pressuring them to have their babies and then give them up for adoption.
Flynn’s services have already been employed by a clearinghouse that operates many crisis pregnancy centers and a large adoption agency called Bethany Christian Services.
Though Flynn's technology could essentially track anyone, pro-lifers are using it to target women that visit Planned Parenthood. Ads are the worst outcome so far, however, targeted geofencing of abortion clinics could result in personal data collection and further attacks.
According to an investigative report for Rewire from Sharona Coutts, geofencing can be used to create an electronic profile of a person. Once they have your phone’s ID, they can buy databases from other marketers and cross-check your ID against it, building a profile that can provide a surprising amount of information about you.
Essentially, if you have your location services enabled on your phone, someone can track not only your age, gender, occupation, education level, marital status, but also where you live, work, and travel.
Alex Morris, a reporter for Rolling Stone, found out how technologically advanced the anti-choice protestors were the hard way when she visited a Planned Parenthood in Birmingham.
“In the few minutes I’ve been in the clinic,” she recounts in her April 2016 story entitled The War on Planned Parenthood, “the protestors have figured out my name and address, and as soon as I come out the door, they start calling them out, loud and self-righteous, as they hold their camera phones up to my face.”
Currently, the geofencing program covers five cities: Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; and New York City.
“We are very excited to bring our mobile marketing capabilities to the pro-life community,” Flynn told Live Action News — the website for Live Action, the group run by anti-choice activist Lila Rose that is also responsible for the attack videos against Planned Parenthood.If this doesn’t make you want to live off the grid, I’m not sure what else will.