SAN FRANCISCO — Google said Friday it would remove abortion clinic visits from its users’ location history, in the company’s first effort to address how it will handle sensitive data after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The location data change will take place in the coming weeks, Jen Fitzpatrick, Google’s senior vice president, wrote in a statement. blog post. The policy will also apply to travel to fertility clinics, domestic violence shelters, addiction treatment centers and other sensitive locations.
Google, which holds a wealth of intimate information about its billions of users, has come under scrutiny since the Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion after almost 50 years. Some reproductive rights advocates have pushed people to remove apps that track their menstrual cycles online, while experts say search and location data from companies like Google is more likely to be used as evidence.
Roe’s repeal has more broadly renewed questions about the amount of data and digital trails people have produced, which could be used to monitor or target those seeking abortions. In states that allow bans or other limits on abortion, law enforcement is expected to focus on taking action against medical providers, but information about individuals, including location data, payment data and more, is not difficult to obtain through data brokers and other sources. .
The Alphabet Workers Union, a group representing more than 800 people who work for Google’s parent company Alphabet, demanded Tuesday that the search giant remove any personal information that law enforcement may try to use to prosecute. those who undergo abortions.
With Friday’s announcement, while Google will remove some location data, it has not promised to automatically remove search records about abortions, which can also be searched. Users must individually opt-in to delete their search history.
Google has been sued by the state of Texas, accused of continuing to track users even when using Chrome web browsers’ supposedly private incognito mode, which may further erode confidence that the company will delete all data when people try to browse privately.
Google has also made no commitment to change the way it handles government data requests.
“We remain committed to protecting our users from inappropriate government data lawsuits, and we will continue to oppose lawsuits that are too broad or legally objectionable,” Ms. Fitzpatrick wrote.
The company also said users will soon be able to more quickly delete multiple period records stored on Fitbit, a Google-owned health-tracking company, instead of one at a time. The company also reminded users to use Google’s existing settings to improve their online privacy.