What you need to know
- Google has announced that visits to abortion clinics will be automatically removed from users’ location histories.
- Visits to other sensitive health-related facilities will also be subject to the auto-delete protocol.
- Google will roll out the new privacy safeguards in the coming weeks.
Google is beefing up its privacy measures for users seeking to terminate pregnancies by automatically erasing visits to abortion clinics from location histories. The protocol will take effect in the coming weeks.
The decision comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing the federal right for women to have an abortion. It raised fears that prosecutors in states where abortion is illegal could use location data stored by tech companies to track down women seeking abortions.
For its part, Google announced in a blog post (opens in new tab) that after visiting an abortion clinic, location data will be deleted by default. This also applies to trips to counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, fertility clinics, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics.
By default, a user’s location history is turned off. Otherwise, Google provides an option to manually clear your location history. Furthermore, you can auto-delete location data using Google’s activity controls, which allow you to automatically erase trips saved in your location history after a certain period of time.
Google’s latest move clearly aims to address growing concerns that location data could be used to track people visiting abortion clinics in several states where abortion is outlawed. This has prompted a number of lawmakers to urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe Google and Apple’s mobile tacking practices, which they believe could lead to that outcome.
Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, also reiterated that the company doesn’t always comply with government data requests.
“We remain committed to protecting our users against improper government demands for data, and we will continue to oppose demands that are overly broad or otherwise legally objectionable,” Fitzpatrick said.