Google automatically deletes information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could cause legal problems
The company behind the Internet’s dominant search engine and the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones outlined new privacy protections in a blog post on Friday.
In addition to automatically removing visits to abortion clinics, Google also lists counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment centers, weight loss clinics, and plastic surgery clinics. They will be deleted from users’ location records. Users always have the ability to change their location records themselves, but Google will make this extra secure for them.
“We are committed to providing strong privacy protections for the people who use our products, and we will continue to look for new ways to strengthen and improve those protections,” Google senior vice president Jane Fitzpatrick wrote in a blog post.
A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters about how the company determines such visits or whether all relevant data is erased from its servers.
The company’s commitment comes amid increasing pressure on Google and other big tech companies to protect the collection of sensitive personal information by government officials and law enforcement agencies and other third parties through their digital services and products.
Calls for stricter privacy restrictions were fueled by the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade of 1973 guaranteed constitutional protections for abortion. The revision would outlaw abortion in more than a dozen states, raising fears that people’s location records, texts, searches and emails could be used in lawsuits for abortion procedures.
Like other tech companies, Google receives thousands of government requests for digital user records each year as part of its misconduct investigations. Google says it opposes search warrants and other requests that appear too general or frivolous.