Planned Parenthood’s Reported Use of ‘Marketing Trackers’

Organization reportedly shared information with tech companies for marketing purposes. 

| | Deming Rohlfs

UPDATE 9/6/22: The FTC is suing Kochava, a major location data broker, over its sale of geolocation information that the agency alleges could expose trips to abortion clinics.

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the nationwide right to an abortion, abortion providers have seen a massive increase in web traffic and booked appointments. Planned Parenthood locations, particularly those located near states moving to restrict abortion, have seen increases in abortion bookings of up to 100 percent. One way to make an appointment is through the organization’s online scheduling tool.

However, an investigation by Lockdown Privacy, whose findings were published in the Washington Post, revealed that patient information such as IP address, site visited and even reason for visiting site, was being collected via the Planned Parenthood scheduling tool and transmitted to third parties including Google, Facebook and TikTok. In other words, the information wasn’t just being used to schedule appointments, it was also being used for marketing purposes.

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Lauren Kokum said in a statement to the Post:

Marketing is a necessary part of Planned Parenthood’s work to reach people who are seeking sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information.

As an intern new to and consumer protection, I wondered why this information would be necessary for marketing, or why they were trying to reach people who had already visited the website and scheduled appointments. Many commenters on the article seemed similarly confused, with one writing:

You don’t need to “market” to visitors already at your site. What a truly dumb excuse for inexcusable behavior.

I did some digging and found an article in the Journal of Medicine and Life that notes that “marketing plays an important role in helping healthcare professionals to create, communicate, and provide value to their target market.” Meanwhile, the FTC has recognized that the internet provides “unprecedented opportunities” for the collection and sharing of consumer data. However, the FTC also notes that many consumers are wary of engaging in online commerce, “in part because they fear that their personal information can be misused.”

After the article was published, Planned Parenthood Chief Health-Care Officer Diana Contreras said in a statement to the Post that:

Out of an abundance of caution, Planned Parenthood will suspend marketing pixels on webpages related to abortion search, and will be engaging with Meta/Facebook and other technology companies about how their policies can better protect people seeking abortion care.

Contreras told the Post that “no scheduling or protected health information has been breached.”

The lesson? Think carefully before sharing information, especially sensitive health data, on the internet. The information you share may be shared with others or make you the unwitting subject of targeted ads.

Deming Rohlfs

Former intern

Deming Rohlfs believes that all consumers have a right to data privacy. Her passion for transparency in media and advertising led her to become an intern at, where she researched, designed, and assisted staff. Deming is currently a student at the University of St Andrews, studying for a Master of Arts (Hons) in Geography and Modern History.

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