In the wake of the overthrow of Roe v. Wadeprotecting our online privacy is more important than ever.
A woman’s search history, location data, and app information can easily be used by authorities to find out if she’s pregnant, considering an abortion, or going ahead.
While major tech companies are alarmingly silent about possible actions to allay these concerns, Google is taking a step to protect its users.
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On Friday, the company has announced Visits to abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, weight loss clinics, and other potentially sensitive locations are automatically cleared from users’ location history in the coming weeks.
Google’s post also mentions an important update for Fitbit:
Fitbit users who have chosen to track their menstrual cycle in the app can currently delete menstrual logs one at a time, and we will be rolling out updates that allow users to delete multiple logs at once.
While the update is undoubtedly an important step in the right direction, it’s certainly not bulletproof — and Google isn’t doing a great job of protecting its users.
First, the tech behemoth is silent on how it will identify these sensitive visits, or if it will permanently delete all related data from its servers.
It will also not erase search or YouTube history, which can harm women when abortions become a criminal act.
In addition, Google’s post didn’t really mention how it will respond to potential law enforcement requests. It said it will “continue to oppose demands that are too broad or otherwise legally objectionable,” leaving some wiggle room.
In addition, it does not guarantee that it will notify users if their data is sought by the authorities:
We notify people when we comply with government requirements, unless we are prohibited from doing so or lives are at stake
What you can do
Rather than relying on the protection of Google or any other company, it is better to take matters into your own hands.
- Use digital tools with encryption and consider buying a VPN. You can find a handy guide here.
- Make sure to manually delete your location and search history, even in incognito mode or something similar.
- Avoid using apps with related sensitive data, such as your menstrual cycle.
- Do not share information about your pregnancy on social media.
- Keep in mind that your phone can be tracked, so don’t take it with you when you visit an abortion or reproductive health clinic.