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Google to delete location data of users visiting an abortion clinic

Google will delete location data showing when users visit an abortion clinic, the company said, after concern that a digital trail could inform law enforcement if an individual terminates a pregnancy illegally.

The update on Friday comes as US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The ruling handed a victory to Republicans and conservatives who want to limit or ban the procedure.

In a blog post, Google said it would remove location history data about some “particularly personal” places from a Google account shortly after someone visits, according to a TechCrunch report. The change to location history will go into effect in the next few weeks.

Locations that will have their data deleted to include medical facilities like counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others.

Google also added that Fitbit users who use the device’s companion software as a period tracker currently must delete those entries one by one.

Google is the first tech company to publicly say how they will handle user data and how the information can be weaponised against women by law enforcement.

Separately, the company also updated its policy to designate US advertisers as providing abortions even if they dispense pills by mail after a virtual consultation, but lack their own facilities, the Guardian reported.

In the wake of the Roe versus Wade judgement, many big corporates have come forward to help women. These companies include Disney, Meta Platforms, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, online dating sites OkCupid and Bumble Inc , Netflix Inc and JPMorgan Chase and Co.

Facebook has said it will reimburse travel expenses, “to the extent permitted by law, for employees who will need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services”, while Microsoft Corp said it would expand its healthcare reimbursement programme to include travel if an employee could not access healthcare because it was not available nearby.

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