Following Roe v. Wade, in direct connection with the right to abortion in the United States, Google made the decision to remove data on visits to abortion clinics.
Google deletes data after Roe v. wade
“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 Google.
Elected Democrats and human rights groups fear that the personal information of women who have had abortions or of individuals who allegedly helped them will be used against them by prosecutors in 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.
Google’s framework reminds that location history is turned off by default and users can control what is kept or not. Regarding the requests of the authorities, she also assures that Google is used to “push back 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.
Not just visits to abortion clinics
Among the sensitive establishments concerned by the decision, Google includes shelters in the event of domestic violence, clinics specializing in weight loss or even 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 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 Sundar Pichai, leader of Google. “Because Google keeps information about the geographic location of hundreds of millions of smartphone users, which it regularly shares with government agencies”they detailed.