Following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case, Roe v. Wade, millions of Americans are losing the right to have an abortion. Some states have already passed so-called trigger laws. In other conservative-majority states, abortion is about to be criminalised through sanctions.
So far, it has been questionable whether some states in the US also want to criminalise traveling out of state to have an abortion. Experts fear that information collected through location data, SMS and Google searches could now be used as incriminating evidence in criminal proceedings. Google wants to lead by implementing a data protection-friendly approach.
Google is aiming to increase Google Maps related data protection in the dispute over the legality of abortions in the USA. It is responding to the will of many who are protesting the Supreme Court’s decision—which many Americans are calling a setback in women’s rights.
Change of data collection approach to protect women’s privacy
Of course, Google Maps is renowned for collecting location data. If individuals would like to know if Google Maps is using their location data, they should look out for the pop-up notifications from Google requesting to review the venue they have just visited. If this notification appears, they may want to adjust their privacy settings in their Google account.
In order to protect women’s privacy, Google is changing its data collection approach in the United States. When someone enters a clinic where abortions are performed, this information is automatically deleted from Google’s location history. The same applies to visits to counselling centres, fertility and addiction clinics, and weight loss and cosmetic surgery specialists.
In most cases, users repeatedly pass on their locations through their smartphones. Acknowledging the importance of safeguarding those who choose to receive medical advice regarding abortions and fertility, Google announced that it would delete such data.
Whether the new implementation will help and protect those who decide to visit abortion clinics, is not yet clear. However, it must come as a relief and comfort to people who fear persecution from visiting abortion clinics, that Google is at the very least willing to change and reassess past practices to support the rights of women.
Check your smartphone’s privacy settings
When setting up a new phone or downloading an app, many users respond very quickly to the prompts that appear on the screen, without realising that they may just have given permission to access personal information.
It’s a good idea to revisit your settings now and again to make sure that no apps are accessing information that, in hindsight, you wouldn’t agree to share.