Google will delete the user location history for visits to the abortion clinic

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Google said Friday that it would delete users’ location history each time they visit an abortion clinic, a home violence shelter or other similarly sensitive location, and responds publicly for the first time to calls on the data giant to limit the amount of information it collects. can be used by law enforcement for abortion investigations and prosecution.

“If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these sites, we will delete these entries from the location log shortly after they visit,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, a senior Google chief, in a blog post.

The blog post also reiterates Google’s position that it is pushing back against what are considered too broad or illegal requests from the authorities for data, but does not specifically say how the company will respond to abortion-related requests. Google already allows users to turn off location tracking completely.

Abortion is illegal for millions. Will Big Tech help prosecute it?

Google and other Big Tech companies have been under pressure over the past week to make clear how they will respond to such requests. Google already responds to hundreds of search warrants every day in the United States, delivering customers’ emails, location data and documents stored in the cloud. As law enforcement agencies become more tech savvy, they have increasingly used the vast amounts of data collected by Big Tech to strengthen investigation and prosecution.

Privacy advocates have long pointed out that the same tactic can be applied to abortion examinations, a hypothetical situation that has now become a reality after the Supreme Court overthrew Roe v. Wade. Google has fought the government on other data collection issues before, such as pushing back against the National Security Agency’s mass data collection programs a decade ago.

Any battle between technology companies and authorities over data collection should be made public so that ordinary people and privacy advocates can also have their say, said Megan Graham, a lawyer at Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley who advises public defense attorneys on technology and privacy issues.

Ok, Google: To protect women, collect less data about everyone

“I hope if Google makes the decision to start pushing back when they get these, whether it is in an abortion context or otherwise, they will make it public,” Graham said. “Google’s voice is obviously important in the discussion because they have the data and they are the ones driving it, but their interests are not necessarily the same as those of the general public or people who are concerned about privacy.”

Other technology companies face the same questions as Google. Facebook executives have been discussing legal strategies to respond to the decision since a draft version was leaked in May, according to a person familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. At Amazon, an employee petition asking the company to take a firmer stance on abortion rights and stop giving money to anti-abortion politicians has received more than 1,500 signatures. On Friday, some Amazon employees reported sick to protest the company’s silence on the matter.

Caroline O’Donovan contributed to this report.

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