Google delete location history data for abortion clinic visits

Google will delete data showing when visit an clinic, after concern that a digital trail could inform law enforcement if an individual terminates a pregnancy illegally.

Following the controversial overturn of Roe v. Wade — which has already caused at least one 10-year-old child to take a risky trip across state lines to seek care — the tech giant said on Friday it will delete user data that confirms a person traveled to an abortion center.

“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location soon after they visit,” Google’s senior vice president Jen Fitzpatrick wrote in a company blog post. “This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”

Activists have said decisions like these could be important if the government begins seeking personal information in order to charge people who’ve had, sought or facilitated abortions.

The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post.

The announcement comes a week after the US Supreme Court made the tectonic decision to strip American women of constitutional rights to abortion, leading a dozen states to ban or severely restrict the procedure and prompting mass protests across the country.

Activists and politicians have been calling on Google and other tech giants to limit the amount of information they collect to avoid it being used by law enforcement for abortion investigations and prosecutions. Fitzpatrick also sought to reassure users that the company takes data privacy seriously.

Concerns over smartphone data and reproductive rights arose even before the Supreme Court ruling, when several conservative US states in recent months passed laws that give members of the public the right to sue doctors who perform abortions — or anyone who helps facilitate them.

That led a group of top Democratic lawmakers in May to send a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, asking him to stop collecting smartphone location data lest it become “a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care.”

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