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Need baby formula? Buy a pregnancy test at Walgreens

Data privacy, data schmivacy

Updated Here's a workaround for the baby formula shortage: buy a pregnancy test at Walgreens and you may receive free formula in the mail.

This, according to a Twitter user, who, we're told, purchased a pregnancy test at the drug store chain, used a Walgreens reward chain during checkout, and then received a gift box containing Enfamil infant formula by mail. 

For the record: the woman also tweeted "there is literally ZERO baby things in my life," and she donated the formula, so presumably Enfamil did not send this gift box to someone struggling to feed their baby during the formula crisis.

The formula brand did not respond to The Register's inquiries. It's worth nothing that anyone who calls Enfamil's 800-phone number hears a recorded message that opens with: "Regrettably, we are unable to provide product samples or discounts at this time."

Apparently, there are some exceptions.

So, about data privacy in post-Roe America…

In addition to calling into question why a formula maker would mail free samples to someone who doesn't necessarily need them in the midst of a formula shortage, the move also highlights data privacy concerns — many of which have become more serious in a post-Roe America.

At least nine states have banned abortion following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which provided constitutional protection for women seeking the procedure. Some of these states have followed Texas' lead in offering a cash bounty to citizens that succeed in suing anyone who helps a woman get an illegal abortion.

There's a spate of new bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers that would make it illegal for data brokers to sell sensitive location and health information about medical treatment and personal information that fertility apps track, such as when someone ovulates or has sex. 

And just last week, the Federal Trade Commission warned companies it will take legal action against businesses selling this type of personal data

Despite these efforts, however, privacy advocates worry that post-Roe, a woman's digital footprint can be used to build a legal case against her in states that have banned abortion — for example, if she buys a pregnancy test and then doesn't deliver a baby in nine months.

"This decision opens the door to law enforcement and private bounty hunters seeking vast amounts of private data from ordinary Americans," Center for Democracy and Technology President and CEO Alexandra Reeve Givens said in a statement following the Supreme Court ruling.

"Data about a person's reproductive health decisions can also be revealed from sources like their browser and search histories, email and text message logs, use of reproductive health apps, and other commercial products with which many users interact daily."

Walgreens did not respond to The Register's inquiries about what customer data it shares and/or sells, and with whom. ®

Updated to add

Walgreens issued the following statement:

"The privacy of our customers is important to Walgreens. Walgreens does not provide individual customer purchase information to Enfamil."

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