Google will delete data on visits to specialist clinics

Google ended the heavy silence of tech giants on the issue of abortion on Friday. The firm announced that users’ location data would be automatically deleted when visiting a clinic specializing in abortions.

“If our systems identify that a person has visited a (sensitive) establishment, we will delete these entries from the location history, shortly after their visit,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, a vice president of the California group, in a press release.

One less weapon for conservative states

This decision comes a week after the Supreme Court of the United States revoked the federal right to voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion). Elected Democrats and human rights associations fear that the personal information of women who have had an abortion, or of individuals who would have helped them, will be held against them by the prosecutors of conservative states that have banned abortion.

They have therefore been calling on major tech platforms for weeks to stop keeping so much personal data, such as online searches on abortion or travel, obtained with applications like Google Maps. But Google, Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and Apple have been very quiet so far.

Detoxification centers also concerned

Jen Fitzpatrick points out that location history is disabled by default, and that users can control what is kept or not. Regarding requests from the authorities, she also assures that Google has a habit of “rejecting them when they are too extensive”.

“We take into account the privacy and security expectations of people who use our products, and we notify them when we comply with government requests, unless lives are at stake,” she adds.

Among the sensitive establishments affected by Friday’s decision, Google also includes shelters for domestic violence, clinics specializing in weight loss and detoxification centers.

“Tools for extremists”

Some laws passed even before the Supreme Court ruling, such as in Texas in September, encourage ordinary citizens to sue women suspected of having abortions or people who helped them – even an Uber driver who allegedly took them at the clinic, for example.

Google’s technologies therefore risk becoming “tools for extremists who want to suppress people seeking reproductive health care”, wrote 42 American elected officials in an open letter, addressed at the end of May to the head of Google Sundar Pichai. . “Because Google keeps information about the geographic location of hundreds of millions of smartphone users, which it regularly shares with government agencies,” they detailed.

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