Locations tracked in anti-abortion ad campaign

Over 14 million ads were delivered to individuals who visited abortion clinics and across social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Senator Ron Wyden calls for protection against Near Intelligence amid an anti-abortion messaging and ad campaign.

In a recent letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Senator Ron Wyden expressed his concerns surrounding software company Near Intelligence (Near) amid the use of location data to promote anti-abortion messaging and ads to individuals who had visited reproductive health clinics.

“Near is a scandal-plagued location data broker, which sells personal information revealing where Americans have been, and consequently, the sensitive places they have visited,” the letter reads.

The Veritas Society, a pro-life media company established by the Wisconsin Right to Life, hired Recrue Media to promote the ad campaign, which lasted from 2019 to 2022, as first investigated by the Wall Street Journal in 2023.

To target these ads, Recrue Media’s employees used Near’s website to draw a line around the building and parking lot of each targeted facility, according to the letter.

“The Veritas Society stated that in 2020 in Wisconsin alone, it delivered 14.3 million ads to people who visited abortion clinics, and served ads to those devices across the women’s social pages, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat,” as per the letter.

Furthermore, the company targeted ads to individuals who had visited Planned Parenthood locations.

“Took the first pill at the clinic? It may not be too late to save your pregnancy,” reads one of the ads within the anti-abortion campaign.

Reportedly, the Veritas Society employed geolocation data to deliver targeted ads to individual devices.

The company’s campaign used typical digital advertising technology known as “geofencing” to obtain the IDs of devices present in Planned Parenthood clinics – these IDs were then used to target individuals on social media, according to the Wall Street Journal.

These ads were often interactive and re-directed victims to a site registered with the Veritas Society, where individuals were afforded two options:

“I want to undo the abortion pill” or “I am thinking about the abortion pill.”

The site was then able to track users who responded to the ads as they browsed the web.

In the letter, Wyden urges the Financial Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure that all location and device data acquired by Near is promptly erased and not sold or shared with third parties.

The Senator also calls upon the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Near and assess whether deceptive statements to investors qualify as securities fraud.