“If our systems identify that someone has visited one of these locations, we will remove those Location History entries shortly after their visit,” Google senior executive Jen Fitzpatrick said in a post by Google. blog.
The blog post also reiterates Google’s position that it pushes back on what are considered overly broad or illegal requests for government data, but does not specifically say how the company will respond to abortion-related requests. Google already allows its users to completely disable location tracking.
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Google and other Big Tech companies have been under pressure over the past week to make clear how they would respond to such requests. Google already responds to hundreds of search warrants in the United States every day, transmitting its customers’ emails, location data and documents stored in the cloud. As law enforcement becomes more tech-savvy, they are increasingly using the vast amounts of data collected by Big Tech to bolster investigations and prosecutions.
Privacy advocates have long pointed out that these same tactics could be applied to abortion investigations, a hypothetical situation that came true after the Supreme Court’s ruling was overturned. Roe vs. Wade. Google has fought the government before on other data collection issues, such as fighting the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs a decade ago.
Any battle between tech companies and governments over data collection should take place in public, so ordinary citizens and privacy advocates can have their say too, said Megan Graham, a lawyer at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley which advises public defense attorneys on technology and privacy issues.
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“I hope that if Google makes the decision to start pushing back when they get them, whether it’s in the context of abortion or whatever, that they do it in public,” Graham said. “Google’s voice is obviously important in the discussion because they have the data and they are the ones doing the searches, but their interests are not necessarily the same as those of the general public or those concerned about privacy rights. .”
Other tech companies face the same questions as Google. Facebook executives have been discussing legal strategies to respond to the ruling since a draft version was leaked in May, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. At Amazon, an employee petition asking the company to take a tougher stance on abortion rights and stop giving money to anti-abortion politicians has received more than 1,500 signatures. On Friday, some Amazon employees called in sick to protest the company’s silence on the issue.
Caroline O’Donovan contributed to this report.
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