Google Will Delete Location History for Sensitive Visits


A July 1 blog post from Google says that it will automatically delete location history when users visit sensitive websites like abortion clinics.

“Privacy matters to people — especially around topics such as their health. 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,” the blog states. “That’s why we’ve long advocated for a comprehensive and nationwide U.S. privacy law that guarantees protections for everyone, and we’re pleased to see recent progress in Congress.”

The blog post explains that Google offers privacy tools and setting that put individuals in control of their data and the company has protections around location history, user data on apps, and law enforcement demands for user data.

Regarding location, Google announced that if its systems identify that an individual visited websites regarding medical facilities, such as counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics, the entries will be deleted from location history shortly after they visit. This change will take place in the coming weeks.

As for user data on apps, to further promote transparency and control for users, Google introduced Google Play’s new data safety section that developers put more information on about how apps collect, share, and secure data. For Google Fit and Fitbit, the blog says users have settings and tools to control their personal data and users who have chosen to track their menstrual cycles in the Fitbit app can currently delete menstruation logs one and a time. The capability to let users delete multiple logs at once will be rolling out soon.

Finally, regarding law enforcement demands for user data, the blog says that “Google has a long track record of pushing back on overly broad demands from law enforcement, including objecting to some demands entirely. We take into account the privacy and security expectations of people using our products, and we notify people when we comply with government demands, unless we’re prohibited from doing so or lives are at stake—such as in an emergency situation. In fact, we were the first major company to regularly share the number and types of government demands we receive in a Transparency Report. We remain committed to protecting our users against improper government demands for data, and we will continue to oppose demands that are overly broad or otherwise legally objectionable. We also will continue to support bipartisan legislation, such as the NDO Fairness Act recently passed by the House of Representatives, to reduce secrecy and increase transparency around government data demands.”

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