In the wake of privacy concerns following Roe v. Wade being overturned, Google said Friday that it will start automatically deleting location history related to potentially sensitive places.
Jen Fitzpatrick, SVP of Core Systems at Google, wrote in a blog post that the company will start deleting visit data from facilities like abortion clinics, fertility centers, counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, addiction treatment facilities and weight loss clinics "soon after" the visits take place when its system identifies that a visit has taken place.
The change will go into effect in the coming weeks for users who have the Location History setting turned on, Fitzpatrick said. The Location History setting is turned off on Google accounts by default.
"Given that these issues apply to healthcare providers, telecommunications companies, banks, tech platforms, and many more, we know privacy protections cannot be solely up to individual companies or states acting individually," Fitzpatrick wrote.
The move comes amid rising worries that people's digital trails of location and other data can be used against them in states where abortion is banned. After a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked in May, legislators wrote to Google urging the company to “stop unnecessarily collecting and retaining customer location data, to prevent that information from being used by right-wing prosecutors to identify people who have obtained abortions.” Protocol reached out to Google earlier this week, but the company did not respond.
With Roe v. Wade overturned, companies may find themselves being forced to turn over data to help states investigate people seeking or facilitating abortions.