Google and other tech companies to protect women’s privacy after US abortion law

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After the US Supreme court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision on June 24, 2022, many conversations were sparked in the whole country. The decision to end women’s constitutional right to abortion is expected to affect around 40 million in at least 26 states of the U.S.

According to a poll by the Wall Street Journal/NORC, 68% of the respondents think that abortion should remain legal in the country, while 30% are in support of the court’s decision.

Although it is unclear what’s to come with this, there are many concerns that are being faced by tech companies such as using personal data against people to monitor or track their whereabouts or for any other reason.

Staying on its feet, Google announced on Friday, that it would automatically delete records of places visited by the user including abortion centers and other health facilities. The company said, “Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”

“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”

– Google said in a blog post.

This includes places like abortion clinics, counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, fertility centers, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, addiction treatment facilities, and more. Any visit that an individual would wish to keep private is included in this list.

Although the “location history” feature is typically switched off in Google’s Android Services, even if it is turned on, it will delete the history.

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Fitbit is a fitness tracking wristband, owned by Google’s Parent company Alphabet. The wristband also has a feature that lets you track your menstrual cycles. Now, it will be rolling out a feature where users can delete their menstruation logs one at a time while they are working on a feature that will allow users to delete multiple logs together.

The information from menstrual cycle tracking applications and similar applications can be used against any user where abortion is now illegal. Although Google has not made any comments about how it would respond to requests from legal authorities for data, it emphasized the fact that it has always been an advocate of a nationwide privacy law that can protect anyone and everyone.

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On the other hand, several companies including Meta have said that they will be covering travel expenses for employees who are in need of reproductive care but have to travel to another state to “the extent permitted by law”. A meta spokesperson said:

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Apple and Google have also assured their employees that they would be given time off and the company will be taking care of the travel expenses.

Spotlight on Data Privacy Issue

In the light of the recent US abortion law, one thing that has crossed everyone’s mind is there is a good chance that data can be used against users. Tech companies are anticipating that they will be receiving subpoenas from the court for users’ search history, location history, search information, and more.

As we saw, most tech companies have been vocal about decisions that align with their values but this time they have been put in a tricky position.

People and advocates who have previously fought similar cases say that they have already faced privacy concerns in states where abortion has a restrictive statute.

In a recent blog by Electronic Frontier Foundation, the non-profit points out what tech companies can do to protect their users’ data and ensure privacy.

It is still unclear to what extent can data be used against a user but it is sure that the law can use it and probably will be using it. Data privacy experts have become increasingly concerned about the court’s decision and are pointing out ways both tech companies and users can follow to better protect data in a “Post-Roe World”

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