In the backdrop of nationwide protests in the U.S. that took place amid controversy sparked by new state laws on abortion due to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs Wade, Google has decided to expunge users’ location data on visits to fertility and abortion clinics in a bid to protect the confidentiality of their reproductive rights. In addition, Google shall provide users with easy controls to auto-delete data pertaining to visits to addiction treatment facilities, weight-loss centers, cosmetic surgery clinics, and other health-related visits.
Google intends to take these steps to counter any potentially out-of-line demands by government agencies to willfully collect this private data and use it as evidence against its users. It is pertinent to note that location history, by default, is switched off in any Google account.
Google has also been facing pressure from the Alphabet Workers Union to remove any such personal data, according to the New York Times.
“We remain committed to protecting our users against improper government demands for data, and we will continue to oppose demands that are overly broad or otherwise legally objectionable”, says Google Senior Vice President Jen Fitzpatrick.
Google already regularly shares information about the governmental demands it receives about access to user data in a Transparency Report.
Fitzpatrick also commented that:
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. We support Congressional efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement on nationwide privacy protections that move the burden of privacy of individuals and establish good data practices across the board. In the meantime, we will continue our focus on securing our products and protecting the privacy of our users around the world.
Deletion of location history data for Google customers visiting certain medical health centers will commence over the next few weeks.