Google removes abortion clinics from location data
02/07/2022 11:19 AM
In many US states, women who have an abortion face severe penalties. They have to fear that prosecutors can also use smartphone data. To prevent this, Google wants to delete abortion clinics and other sensitive places from your location history in the future.
In the future, Google wants to delete the location data of users who visited abortion clinics, women’s shelters and other intimate places in the USA. “If our systems determine that someone has visited one of these sites, we will delete these entries from the site history shortly after the visit,” Google CEO Jane Fitzpatrick announced. The change will take effect in the coming weeks.
Other places that Google will no longer want to store location data from smartphones in the future are fertility clinics, addiction clinics, and weight loss clinics.
With this announcement, the technology group is responding to the US Supreme Court’s abortion ruling. A little more than a week ago, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” ruling that enshrined the right to abortion nationwide. This means that states can now largely or even outright ban abortions. Some conservative-ruled countries have already done so.
Message to the head of Google
After the ruling, activists and politicians called on Google and other tech companies to stop storing location history and other sensitive user data so authorities can’t use it to investigate abortions. In a blog post, Fitzpatrick explained that Google has long rejected “too broad claims by law enforcement.” “We take into account the privacy and security expectations of people who use our products, and we inform people when we comply with regulatory requirements,” she wrote.
Even before the Supreme Court ruling, there were concerns in the US that authorities would use smartphone location data in investigations into abortions.
Several states have passed legislation in recent months that encourages individuals to sue doctors and others who assist women with abortions. So Democratic parliamentarians wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in May calling for it to stop collecting location data so it doesn’t turn the data into a “tool used by right-wing extremists.”
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