Google will start auto-deleting abortion clinic visits from user location history
Google says it’ll start automatically deleting visits to abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, weight loss clinics, and other potentially sensitive locations from users’ location histories in the coming weeks. In a blog post on Friday, the company says that the deletion will happen “soon after” the visit, once its systems have identified that a trip was made to one of the locations. This change is happening in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the moves several states have immediately made to outlaw abortions.
You can also turn off Google’s location logging altogether by following its instructions here.
Google’s post, entitled “Protecting people’s privacy on health topics,” also mentions that there’s an update coming for Fitbit that will let you delete multiple menstruation logs at once if you’ve been using the health tracking feature.
These privacy updates are meant to remove select data from Google’s servers that could be used to prosecute people for seeking care, but the company still stores a lot of other data about your activities. Search and YouTube histories could also be used as evidence in investigations, and Google’s post doesn’t mention anything about those. We’ve reached out to Google to ask about any other steps it may be taking to protect users’ data.
While Google legally has to comply with certain government demands for data (and could be compelled to turn over logs if they exist), the company reiterates that it will “continue to oppose demands that are overly broad or otherwise legally objectionable.” Google also says that it will notify users when it gives their data to the government, unless it’s been ordered not to do so or there is a pressing security concern.
Data privacy concerns around abortion go beyond Google: official medical records aren’t as private as many of us assume, and everything from text messages and purchase records could be used against you in court. Plus, the company isn’t necessarily the only entity keeping tabs on where your smartphone has been. For more info, you can read our article that goes in depth on the privacy risks that people seeking care may now face.