HASAfter weeks of silence on this subject, Google announced on Friday that users’ location data would be automatically deleted if they visited a clinic specializing in abortions.
“If our systems identify that a person has been to a (sensitive) establishment, we will delete those location history entries shortly after their visit,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, a vice president for the California group, in a statement.
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 abortions or of individuals who have helped them will be used against them by the prosecutors of conservative states that have banned abortion.
They have therefore been calling for weeks on major technology platforms to no longer store so much personal data, from online research on abortion to travel on applications like Google Maps.
But Google, Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and Apple have been very quiet so far.
Jen Fitzpatrick reminds that location history is turned off by default and 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 includes shelters for domestic violence, clinics specializing in weight loss and detoxification centers.
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 those 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.
02/07/2022 13:01:38 – San Francisco (AFP) – © 2022 AFP