Erasing location data

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Published - July 05, 2022 05:00 pm IST

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The US Supreme Court recently overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide. The judgement handed a momentous victory to Republicans and religious conservatives who want to limit or ban the procedure.

Following the top court’s ruling, Google has said it will delete users’ location data when they visit abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters and other places where privacy is sought.

On Friday, the search giant announced in a blog post that it would remove location history data about some “particularly personal” places from a Google account shortly after someone visits. Location information that will have data deleted include “medical facilities like counseling centres, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centres, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others,” the blog said.

The changes do not stop there. Google is also making some updates to its wearable software. Fitbit users who use the device’s WearOS as a period tracker currently must delete those entries one by one. But the search giant is developing an easier way to “delete multiple logs at once”.

These change to location history will go into effect in the next few weeks, the company said.

Google’s move to protect user’s location data could impact how government agencies request for digital records as part of misconduct investigations. Like other technology companies, Google each year receives for users’ digital records to investigate various cases.

In the first half of 2021, it received nearly 150,000 requests for user data by law enforcement and granted information in 78% of cases, according to the company’s internal transparency report.

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