Google says it will automatically begin removing visits to abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, weight loss clinics and other potentially sensitive locations from users’ location history in the coming weeks. In a blog post on friday, the company says the removal will take place “shortly after” the visit, once the systems determine that a trip to one of the sites has been made. This change comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to undo Roe v. Wade and the immediate steps several states took to ban abortions.
Google’s post, titled “Protecting People’s Privacy on Health Topics,” also mentions that an update is coming to Fitbit that will allow you to delete multiple menstrual logs at once if you’ve used the health tracking feature.
These privacy updates are intended to remove selected data from Google’s servers that could be used to prosecute people for seeking concern, but the company still retains a lot of other data about your activities. Search and YouTube histories can also be used as evidence in investigations, and Google’s post makes no mention of that. We contacted Google to ask about other steps Google can take to protect user data.
While Google is required by law to comply with certain government requirements for data (and may be forced to transfer logs if they exist), the company reiterates that it will “continue to oppose demands that are too broad or otherwise legally objectionable.” Google also says it will notify users when it gives their data to the government unless it is ordered not to or there is an urgent security issue.
Data privacy concerns surrounding abortion extend beyond Google: Official medical records aren’t as private as many of us assume, and everything from text messages and purchase records could be used against you in court. Plus, the company isn’t necessarily the only entity tracking where your smartphone has been. For more information, read our article that takes a closer look at the privacy risks that people seeking care may now face.