Democrats urge Google to stop collecting location data that could be used to identify people seeking abortions

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  • Democratic lawmakers urged Google CEO Sundar Pichai to stop collecting and keeping unnecessary or non-aggregated location data that could be used to identify people seeking abortions.
  • The letter comes after a draft Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade, which was published by Politico.
  • This follows a separate Democratic letter urging the FTC to protect consumers’ data privacy in light of the anticipated decision.

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A group of 42 Democratic lawmakers urged Google CEO Sundar Pichai letter Stop collecting and keeping unnecessary or non-aggregated location data that can be used to identify people seeking an abortion.

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The letter comes before the anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that protected the federal right to abortion, after politician Published a draft opinion that would do just that. The court is yet to issue its final verdict, but the chief justice confirmed that the draft was authentic.

The prospect has raised fears that location data or search history could be used against people seeking abortions or those in states where it is illegal to obtain them.

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Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Anna Eshu, D-California, wrote, “We are concerned that, in a world where abortion may be made illegal, Google’s current Maintaining extensive records of practices collection and cell phone location data will make it a tool for far-right extremists trying to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care. That’s because Google is home to hundreds of millions of smartphone users. Stores information about historical locations, which it regularly shares with government agencies.”

According to the letter, Google has said that it received 11,554 geofence warrants in 2020, a type of court order that would require the company to turn over users’ data at a certain location at a given time. It is not clear how many of these Google have collaborated with.

“While Google deserves credit for being one of the first companies in the US to insist on a warrant before disclosing location data to law enforcement, this is not enough,” the lawmakers wrote. “If abortion is outlawed by far-right Supreme Court and Republican lawmakers, it is inevitable that right-wing prosecutors will obtain legal warrants to hunt, prosecute, and jail women for obtaining critical reproductive health care. The only way to protect you from this kind of abusive government surveillance is to not put customers’ location data on it in the first place.”

The lawmakers differentiated between Google and Apple, saying, “Apple has shown that it is not necessary for smartphone companies to maintain aggressively tracking databases of their customers’ locations. Google’s deliberate choice to do so has created a new digital divide.” In which privacy and security have been made a luxury. Americans who can buy an iPhone have more privacy from government surveillance of their movements than the millions of Americans who use Android devices.”

Last week, 16 Democrats signed a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lena Khan urging the agency to protect data privacy for those seeking reproductive health care.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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