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Google will delete location history data for abortion clinic visits

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HIGHLIGHTS :

  • Google said Friday it will delete entries from a person’s location history if it detects a visit to an abortion clinic.
  • The post comes a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Google has been facing pressure from legislators and the public regarding how it will handle data privacy.

it will delete entries from a person’s location history

Google said on Friday that it would delete abortion clinic visits from the location history of its users, in the company’s first effort to address how it will handle sensitive data in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

The location data change will take place in the coming weeks, Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, wrote in a blog post. The policy will also apply to trips to fertility clinics, domestic violence shelters, addiction treatment facilities, and other sensitive locations.

The post comes a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Google, which holds reams of intimate information about its billions of users, has come under scrutiny since the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years. Some supporters of reproductive rights have pushed people to delete 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.

The company said the location history of a Google account is off by default.

Effective in the coming weeks, for those who do use location history, entries showing sensitive places including fertility centers, abortion clinics, and addiction treatment facilities will be deleted soon after a visit.

Google has been facing pressure from legislators and the public

A Google spokesperson did not immediately answer how the company would identify such visits or whether all related data would be wiped from its servers.

Google is the first tech company to publicly say how they will handle user data in response to concerns over the court ruling and how it can be weaponized and imposed by law enforcement.

Separately, the company on Friday updated its policy to designate US advertisers as providing abortions even if they dispense pills by mail after a virtual consultation, but lack their own facilities.

Google also said the responsibility is shared by many institutions.

“Given that these issues apply to healthcare providers, telecommunications companies, banks, tech platforms, and many more, we know privacy protections cannot be solely up to individual companies or states acting individually,” the post said.

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