Google deletes users’ location history when visiting abortion clinics in the US

SAN FRANCISCO: Google announced on Friday it would remove users location history when they visit abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, and other places where privacy is sought.
“If our systems determine that someone has visited one of these places, we will remove those entries from Location History shortly after their visit,” Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president at Google, wrote in a blog post. “This change will come into effect in the coming weeks.”
Other places from which Google does not store location data include fertility centers, addiction treatment centers, and weight loss clinics.
The announcement comes a week after the US Supreme Court made the tectonic decision to strip American women of the constitutional right to abortion, leading a dozen states to ban or severely curtail the procedure and spark mass protests across the country.
Activists and politicians have called on Google and other tech giants to limit the amount of information they collect to prevent it from being used by law enforcement for abortion investigations and prosecutions.
Fitzpatrick also tried to reassure users that the company takes data privacy seriously.
“Google has a long track record in curbing overly broad law enforcement demands, including completely opposing some demands,” she wrote.
“We consider the privacy and security expectations of people who use our products, and we notify people when we meet government requirements.”
Concerns about smartphone data and reproductive rights arose even before the Supreme Court ruling, as several conservative US states passed laws in recent months that give members of the public the right to sue doctors who perform abortions — or anyone who helps them.
That prompted a group of top Democratic lawmakers in May to send a letter to Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichaiand asked him to stop collecting location data from smartphones, otherwise it would become “a resource for far-right extremists who want to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care”.