US: Google will delete data of those who visit abortion clinics

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WASHINGTON, July 4: Google announced Friday it will delete information including whether a person visited an abortion clinic as bans on terminating pregnancies grow in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

The search giant said in a blog post that the company’s systems will delete location history entries for people who visit abortion clinics, fertility centres, addiction treatment facilities,
weight loss clinics, domestic violence shelters and other medical facilities.

Google said that the entries would be deleted “soon after they visit” and that the policy change will take effect “in the coming weeks,” reported Unite Press International (UPI).

The company, which owns the fitness giant FitBit, also revealed in the blog post that women who track their menstrual cycles in its fitness apps will soon be able to delete multiple
menstruation logs at a time. Currently, app users can only delete one such log at a time.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, noted in a blog post on Thursday that some experts have advised deleting such apps alleging that they could be used as evidence in states where abortion has been criminalised.

“Abortion seekers face much more urgent threats right now, and period tracking apps are not at the top of the list of immediate concerns,” the nonprofit said.

The EFF noted that the most common evidence used by law enforcement include electronic communication including text messages and emails, as well as browser search histories.

Regardless, the nonprofit advised those concerned about period tracker apps to consider changing to a “more privacy-focused app.”

Such apps include the Spot On period tracker created by Planned Parenthood, which allows users to anonymise their data.

Google, for its part, said in its blog post that the search giant “has a long track record of pushing back on overly broad demands from law enforcement, including objecting to some demands entirely.” -TVS

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