MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies.
The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post.
Besides automatically deleting visits to abortion clinics, Google also cited counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics as other destinations that will be erased from users’ location histories. Google will now proactively protect users’ location history. Users can edit it as they wish, although this is something that has been available to them since the beginning.
“We’re committed to delivering robust privacy protections for people who use our products, and we will continue to look for new ways to strengthen and improve these protections,” Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, wrote in the blog post.
Google and Big Tech companies are under increasing pressure to take steps to safeguard the sensitive data stored through digital services and products against government agencies and outsiders.
The calls for more stringent privacy controls were triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. That reversal could make abortion illegal in more than a dozen states, raising the specter that records about people’s location, texts, searches and emails could be used in prosecutions against abortion procedures or even for medical care sought in a miscarriage.
Like other technology companies, Google each year receives thousands of government demands for users’ digital records as part of misconduct investigations. Google claims it opposes search warrants or other requests that appear excessively broad and baseless.
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