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Google will “automatically delete” location history if users visit Abortion Clinics

Protests after Roe vs Wade was overturned

Recently, the United States of America took a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — a 50-year-old landmark ruling, ending women’s constitutional right to abortion. Following the judgment that faced heavy backlash across the world, Google on Friday announced that the platform would automatically delete location records of users when they visit abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, and other places where privacy is sought.

In a blog post, Google senior vice president Jen Fitzpatrick wrote that the location data change will take place in the coming weeks.  The policy will also apply to trips to fertility clinics, domestic violence shelters, addiction treatment facilities, and other sensitive locations. The company will also roll out updates for Fitbit users who have chosen to track their menstrual cycles in the app, allowing them to delete multiple menstruation logs at once.

The judgment that is set to change the landscape of reproductive health in the country has brought giant tech companies on the radar of women’s rights and digital rights advocates as users’ online footprint may now pose a data leak threat to the ones who are seeking or providing abortions in states where the procedure is criminalized.

Technology and telecommunication platforms hold vast troves of personal information of their users including search history, websites they visit, locations they travel to, things they shop for, and much more. Expert suggests that now these companies could face increasing pressure from law enforcement to provide data of people who are attempting to get an abortion. Activists and politicians have been calling out tech giants to restrict the amount of information they collect to avoid it being used by authorities for abortion investigations and prosecutions.

According to Google’s transparency report, the tech giant received almost 70,000 requests from subpoenas, search warrants, and other government queries that covered data from more than 115,000 accounts.

So far, other tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter haven’t directly responded to questions about how they would handle data requests targeting abortion-seekers, as per a CNN business report. However, many of them including Google have announced financial aid and assistance to show support to their employees that wish to seek abortion care.

Google said that it will allow its staff to move to another state that doesn’t have abortion restriction laws, without having to justify it. Other than that, the company’s insurance would cover out-of-state medical procedures that aren’t available where the employee lives and works. Microsoft has also issued a statement extending its financial support for ‘critical healthcare’ that included abortions including coverage of travel expenses involved in such services.

Netflix along with Meta has announced to offer travel expense reimbursement who wish to seek out-of-state healthcare and reproductive services. “We are in the process of assessing how best to do so given the legal complexities involved,” a Meta spokesperson said.

Last year, Apple also stated that the company’s existing benefits package allows employees to travel out of state for medical care if it’s unavailable in their home state.

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