Google to erase more location information as abortion bans grow

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal issues now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to prohibit termination of pregnancy.

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 blog post on Friday.

Besides automatically removing visits to abortion clinics, Google also listed counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment centers, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics as other destinations. which will be erased from users’ location histories. Users have always had the ability to edit their location histories themselves, but Google will proactively do this for them as an added layer of protection.

“We are committed to providing strong privacy protections to people who use our products, and we will continue to seek new ways to strengthen and improve these protections,” wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of Google, in the blog.

The pledge comes amid growing pressure on Google and other Big Tech companies to do more to protect troves of sensitive personal information through their digital services and products from government authorities and other outsiders.

Calls for tougher privacy controls were sparked by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade of 1973 which legalized abortion. The reversal could make abortion illegal in more than a dozen states, raising the specter that people’s location records, text messages, searches and emails could be used in lawsuits against procedures. abortion or even for medical attention sought during a miscarriage.

Like other tech companies, Google receives thousands of government requests for digital user records each year as part of misconduct investigations. Google says it pushes back on search warrants and other requests that are too broad or seem baseless.