Google has announced it will erase location history data from customers “soon after” they visit medical institutions, including abortion clinics.
The tech company has been discussing how it would manage user data on applications following the US Supreme Court’s June 24 verdict reversing Roe vs Wade.
The release also stated the change would be made in the coming weeks and that customers who have previously enabled location history will be able to have some or all of their data automatically removed.
Jen Fitzpatrick SVP of Core Systems at Google said: “Some of the places people visit — including medical facilities like counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others — can be particularly personal.”
“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit.”
The statement also covers concerns raised about tech firms’ collecting of health, fertility, and menstrual data.
The company said: “For Google Fit and Fitbit, we give users settings and tools to easily access and control their personal data, including the option to change and delete personal information, at any time.”
In the week after the verdict, reproductive health, abortion, and privacy experts and campaigners warned that data from some reproductive health tracking apps might be used to monitor, identify, and arrest women in places where abortion is outlawed.
Dr. Gina Neff, director of the Minderoo Center for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge, tweeted to “Delete those fertility apps now,” and later said the apps contained “powerful information about reproductive choices that’s now a threat.”
She mentions period tracking particularly, noting that Fitbit users “who have chosen to track their menstrual cycles in the app” can wipe menstruation records one at a time.
The tech giant also acknowledged that it intends to deliver upgrades that would allow users to “delete multiple logs at once.”
Fitzpatrick said: “Google Play has strict protocols to protect user privacy — including policies that prohibit developers from selling personal and sensitive user data and a requirement that they handle that data securely and only for purposes directly related to operating the app.”
However, the statement does not clearly indicate whether Google would refuse to cooperate with demands for users’ health information from US law enforcement, courts, or prosecutors.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter