Google Says It Will Remove Location Data When Users Visit Abortion Clinics

SAN FRANCISCO. Google said Friday it will remove visits to abortion clinics from its users’ location history, in the company’s first attempt at deciding how it will handle sensitive data since the Supreme Court’s ruling. rollover Row vs. Wade.

The change in location data will happen in the coming weeks, wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of Google. Blog post. The policy will also apply to travel to fertility clinics, domestic violence shelters, drug treatment centers and other places with special treatment.

Google, which stores vast amounts of sensitive information about its billions of users, has come under scrutiny since the Supreme Court ruled last week to dismiss Roe v. the United States. Wade, who abolished the constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years. Some reproductive rights advocates are pushing people to remove apps that track their menstrual cycles online while experts said search and location data from companies like Google are more likely to be used as evidence.

Row’s rollover more broadly has renewed questions about how much data and digital footprints created by humans that can be used to monitor or identify those attempting abortions. In states that allow abortion bans or other restrictions, law enforcement is expected to focus on taking action against health care providers, but information about individuals, including location data, payment data, etc., is not difficult to obtain through data brokers and other sources. .

The Alphabet Workers Union, a group representing more than 800 people who work for Google’s parent company Alphabet, on Tuesday demanded that the search giant delete all personal data that law enforcement might try to use to prosecute abortionists.

With Friday’s announcement, while Google will remove some location data, it hasn’t committed to automatically removing abortion search entries that could also become in-demand. Users must individually choose to delete their search history.

The state of Texas is suing Google for continuing to track users even when they use supposedly private incognito mode on Chrome browsers, which could further undermine confidence that the company will delete all data when people try to browse. web pages privately.

Google has also made no commitment to change the way it handles requests for government data.

“We remain committed to protecting our users from abusive government data requirements, and we will continue to oppose requirements that are overbroad or otherwise legally objectionable,” Ms said. Fitzpatrick wrote.

The company also said that users will soon be able to delete multiple period logs stored on Fitbit, the Google-owned health tracking company, faster than one at a time. The company also reminded users to use the existing settings options on Google to improve their online privacy.