Among the data privacy concerns raised by the Supreme Court’s reversal decision Roe – WadeGoogle says it will remove abortion clinics and other facilities from users’ location history. Since the decision, Google and other tech giants have largely been involved in how to handle user data requests in abortion-related investigations. Privacy experts have marked the vast amount of data collected by Google and other platforms as suitable for abuse by law enforcement and anti-abortion groups.
a new Google states that it will attempt to remove locations from users’ location histories “immediately after they visit”. The company was unclear on how exactly it would identify these locations or how long the moves would take. The company said the same process would apply to visits to other healthcare facilities.
“Some of the places people visit can be particularly personal, including medical facilities such as counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others,” Google writes. “Today we are announcing that if our systems detect that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from the Location History immediately after visiting.”
The company also said it will update Fitbit’s app so that users can delete their menstrual tracking information from the service in bulk. Other period-tracking apps have also promised to add security features in recent days as concerns grow that cycle-tracking apps could become a target for law enforcement investigations.
Google has also addressed concerns about law enforcement’s broad requests for location data – an issue that lawmakers need to address the company. The company reiterated existing policies, including the practice of notifying users when data is requested, and noted the transparency reports that track these requests. The company also claimed it “has a long history of turning down excessively broad requests” and said it “will continue to oppose excessively broad or otherwise legally objectionable requests”.
While the changes seek to address a number of concerns raised by privacy experts and activists, they won’t preclude the possibility that users’ online or offline activities will be used against them in an abortion-related investigation. Google, for example, did not mention that it would remove queries about abortion from the user’s search history or YouTube accounts. Browsing history and other data are also routinely shared and other advertisers and data brokers are still to obtain data about users’ past locations.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.