(Headline USA) After years of callously infringing on the privacy of its users, Google has decided to automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has returned states’ rights to ban the termination of pregnancies.
The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post.
Besides automatically deleting visits to abortion clinics, Google also cited counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics as other destinations that will be erased from users’ location histories. Users have always had the option edit their location histories on their own, but Google will automate the process.
“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,” Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, wrote in the blog post. The tech giant has faced significant criticism over the years for its privacy invasions.
The pledge comes amid escalating pressure on Google and other Big Tech companies to do more to shield the troves of sensitive personal information through their digital services and products from government authorities and other outsiders.
The calls for more stringent privacy controls were triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. That reversal could lead to increased protections for infants in more than a dozen states, raising the specter that records about people’s location, texts, searches and emails could be used in prosecutions against abortion procedures.
Like other technology companies, Google each year receives thousands of government demands for users’ digital records as part of misconduct investigations. Google says it pushes back against search warrants and other demands that are overly broad or appear to be baseless.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.