| BOSTON, April 4
BOSTON, April 4 A Massachusetts advertising
agency has agreed not to use location technology to target women
entering clinics that offer abortion with smartphone ads with
messages including "You Have Choices" and "You're Not Alone,"
state officials said on Tuesday.
Maura Healey, the state's Democratic attorney general, said
the settlement with Copley Advertising LLC highlighted the
potential for "geofencing" technology to be used to harass
people and interfere with their privacy.
Healey's office said Copley used the technology in five
cities outside the state, and while it had not carried out such
advertising campaigns near Massachusetts clinics, it has the
ability to do so.
The Boston-based firm, which will not pay any financial
penalty, agreed not to use the technology at or near
Massachusetts healthcare facilities to infer the health status,
medical condition or treatment of any person.
"This settlement will help ensure that consumers in
Massachusetts do not have to worry about being targeted by
advertisers when they seek medical care," Healey said in a
In a statement, Copley Chief Executive Officer John Flynn
said Healey's office had "singled out" the company. Copley broke
no laws, he said, but settled so it could focus on servicing its
"Their right to free speech should not be marginalized
because government officials do not agree with the message of
their advertisement," he said.
Abortion is one of the most politically divisive issues in
the United States. Supporters of abortion rights see them as
fundamental to women, while opponents say the procedure is akin
The settlement spotlighted the privacy issues inherent in
geofencing, a location-based mobile service that allows
marketers to target users visiting specific spots with
According to Healey's office, a Christian adoption agency
and a California-based network of crisis pregnancy centers hired
Copley in 2015 to send ads to "abortion-minded women" at or near
waiting rooms of reproductive health clinics.
To do this, Copley created virtual "fences" at or near
Planned Parenthood facilities, reproductive health centers and
methadone clinics in New York City; Pittsburgh; Richmond,
Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and St. Louis, Healey's office said.
When someone entered a designated area, Copley tagged that
person's smartphone or other internet-enabled device and sent
the advertisements to it, Healey said.
Her office said clicking on the ads would take a user to a
website with information about abortion alternatives and access
to a live chat with a "pregnancy support specialist."
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone; Editing by
Lisa Von Ahn)