Protection from prosecution: Google deletes abortion clinics from location data

In many US states, women who have an abortion face severe penalties.

Protection from prosecution: Google deletes abortion clinics from location data

In many US states, women who have an abortion face severe penalties. They have to fear that prosecutors could also use smartphone data. To prevent this, Google wants to delete abortion clinics and other sensitive places from the location history in the future.

In the future, Google wants to delete the location data of users who have visited abortion clinics, women's shelters and other intimate places in the USA. "If our systems determine that someone has visited one of these locations, we will delete those entries from Location History shortly after the visit," announced Google executive Jen Fitzpatrick. The change will come into effect in the coming weeks.

Other places where Google no longer wants to store location data from smartphones in the future are fertility clinics, addiction clinics and weight loss clinics.

With the announcement, the technology group is reacting to the abortion ruling of the US Supreme Court. Just over a week ago, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark "Roe v. Wade" ruling from 1973, which had enshrined a nationwide right to abortions. This means that the states can now largely or even completely ban abortions. Some conservative-governed states have already done so.

After the verdict, activists and politicians called on Google and other technology companies to stop storing location history and other sensitive user data so that the authorities could not use them to investigate abortions. Fitzpatrick explained in a blog post that Google has long rejected "overly broad claims by law enforcement agencies". "We consider the privacy and security expectations of people who use our products, and we notify people when we comply with regulatory requirements," she wrote.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, there had been fears in the United States that authorities could use smartphone location data in investigations into abortions.

Several states have passed legislation in recent months encouraging individuals to sue doctors and others who have helped women get abortions. Parliamentarians from the Democrats therefore wrote a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai in May, in which they asked him to stop collecting location data so as not to turn the data into a "tool used by right-wing extremists".

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