SafeGraph to Close Digital Shop That Sold Abortion Clinic Location Data

Motherboard previously revealed that SafeGraph was selling location data related to visits to Planned Parenthood facilities.
Planned Parenthood
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Data broker SafeGraph says it will close its data shop next week, according to an email sent to SafeGraph customers on Friday.

The news signals a change in the business model in one data broker that has hit headlines recently. In May, Motherboard found SafeGraph was selling location data related to people who visited Planned Parenthood clinics in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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“Next week we’ll be closing SafeGraph’s data shop. We see this as an opportunity to focus more on what matters the most to us: building the most accurate and usable dataset of global POIs [points of interest] in the market,” the email reads. SafeGraph sells POI data that can include the locations of coffee shops, stores, and other landmarks. This can be useful to customers who may want to combine it with their own datasets and to ensure accuracy.

Do you know about any other recent changes inside location data companies? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

On its data shop, SafeGraph offers more data, such as its “Patterns” product, which is based on location data harvested from mobile phones. “Foot traffic data that answers: how often people visit a place, how long they stay, where they came from, and more,” SafeGraph’s shop currently reads. This is the product that included data related to Planned Parenthood clinics. (Motherboard received the announcement email because we previously bought $160 worth of data related to abortion clinics to verify that the purchase of such data was possible). The email adds that customers should pull out any data they previously purchased in the last year within the next two business days if needed.

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On its site, SafeGraph says that its location data is aggregated for privacy. But as Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher who has followed the data trade previously told Motherboard, that sort of data can still present an issue. “It's bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic,” he said at the time. “This is how you dox someone traveling across state lines for abortions—how you dox clinics providing this service.”

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SafeGraph did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned closure of its data shop.

After Motherboard reported SafeGraph’s sale of abortion clinic related data, the company stopped offering such data for sale from the self-serve shop and its API. In the wake of that reporting, an investor in SafeGraph sold their stake in the company and said they planned to donate the money to Planned Parenthood. SafeGraph’s investors include a former head of Saudi intelligence. 

Last August, Motherboard reported that Google had banned SafeGraph, meaning that any apps which were working with SafeGraph had to remove code that was sending location data to the company.

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