Google is taking a new step to protect user privacy in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The internet giant will automatically delete location entries from users’ accounts shortly after they visit “particularly personal” medical facilities, including abortion clinics, Google senior VP Jen Fitzpatrick wrote in a blog post Friday. The change will take effect in the coming weeks.
“We understand that people rely on Google to keep their personal data secure. We’ve long been committed to this work, and today we’re sharing additional steps we’re taking to protect user privacy around health issues,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
In addition to abortion clinics, Google will auto-delete data about user visits to medical facilities such as counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, fertility centers, addiction-treatment facilities, weight loss clinics and cosmetic surgery clinics.
Google’s Location History is turned off by default and can only be turned on if you opt in. To shut off the location-tracking feature, the company provides instructions at this link.
With Roe v. Wade rolled back, reproductive-rights advocates have raised new alarms about state laws that criminalize abortion — and give local law-enforcement officials investigating violations of new anti-abortion statutes the power to subpoena data records.
“Google has a long track record of pushing back on overly broad demands from law enforcement, including objecting to some demands entirely,” Fitzpatrick wrote, noting that it was the first major internet company to regularly share stats about government demands for data in its transparency reports. “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.”
Longer term, Google supports bipartisan congressional efforts to pass federal privacy protections that “move the burden of privacy off individuals and establish good data practices across the board,” according to Fitzpatrick.
“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,” the Google exec wrote.