Advertising Agency Uses Geofencing to Target Women Near Abortion Centers

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Advertising Agency Uses Geofencing to Target Women Near Abortion Centers
Short Title Advertising Agency Copley Uses Geofencing to Target Women Near Reproductive Health Facilities With Unwanted Ads
Location Massachusetts
Date 2017

Solove Harm Aggregation, Surveillance, Intrusion
Information Location, Computer Device, Medical and Health, Behavioral, Preference
Threat Actors Copley Advertising LLC

Affected Women entering reproductive health facilities in Massachusetts
High Risk Groups Pregnant Women
Tangible Harms

In an advertising campaign, Copley Advertising LLC used geofencing in order to tag the device IDs of women entering the geofenced area and then serve them anti-abortion ads.


Geofencing is a technology that allows digital advertising companies to direct advertisements to users through browsers and applications on their devices when those users are located in a designated territory.

In its advertising campaign, Copley Advertising, LLC (Copley) set mobile geofences at or near reproductive health centers and methadone clinics in Columbus, New York City, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and St. Louis.

When a consumer entered the geofenced area near these locations, Copley tagged the consumer’s device ID Surveillance and served advertisements Intrusion to the consumer’s device for up to 30 days. This is an example of Aggregation of information about locations and information about people, who were in these locations.

This was done in order to direct targeted advertisements—using geofencing—to “abortion-minded women” sitting in waiting rooms at health clinics. The advertisements included text such as “Pregnancy Help,” “You Have Choices,” and “You’re Not Alone” that, if clicked, took the consumer to a webpage with information about abortion alternatives and access to a live web chat with a “pregnancy support specialist.”

The settlement, resolved through an Assurance of Discontinuance filed in April 2017 in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves allegations that Copley’s practices would violate consumer protection laws in Massachusetts by tracking a consumer’s physical location near or within medical facilities, disclosing that location to third-party advertisers, and targeting the consumer with potentially unwanted advertising based on inferences about his or her private, sensitive, and intimate medical or physical condition, all without the consumer’s knowing consent.

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