Lawmakers ask Google to stop collecting location data before reversal of abortion rights

Senator Ron Wyden and 41 different Democratic lawmakers are urging Google to stop collecting and maintaining location data that might be used towards individuals who’ve had or are searching for abortions. In a letter (PDF) to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, the lawmakers referenced the Supreme Court draft obtained by Politico wherein SCOTUS justices have voted to reverse Roe v. Wade. The landmark case protected the federal rights to abortion throughout the nation, and states with set off legal guidelines will instantly criminalize abortion if it really will get overturned. 

“[W]e are concerned that, in a world in which abortion could be made illegal, Google’s current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data will allow it to become a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care,” the lawmakers wrote. Their situation principally lies with how Google designed Android in order that it additionally has to obtain location data if a third-party app asks customers for entry to their location info. On iOS, Google can solely accumulate info data whereas persons are utilizing Google Maps. 

As Google reveals in its transparency reports, it routinely will get court docket orders, subpoenas and search warrants from legislation enforcement businesses trying to get their arms on consumer info. In the primary half of 2021, as an example, the tech large acquired 50,907 requests for disclosure of consumer info involving 115,594 accounts. A complete of 82 % of these requests resulted within the disclosure of some info. 

In their letter, the lawmakers identified how 1 / 4 of the court docket orders Google will get is for “geofence” data, which might present info on folks close to a selected location at a given time. They means it might be used to determine individuals who go to reproductive well being clinics and different locations that assist folks search entry to abortions.

The signees praised Google for being one of the primary firms to require a warrant before disclosing consumer data, however they stated it isn’t sufficient. They in contrast Google to Apple, saying the latter reveals that it is “not necessary for smartphone companies to retain invasive tracking databases of their customers’ locations.” By persevering with to accumulate location data, the lawmakers say Google is making a digital divide, since those that can afford iPhones have better safety towards authorities surveillance. 

They closed the letter with this plea:

“[W]e urge you to promptly reform your data collection and retention practices, so that Google no longer collects unnecessary customer location data nor retains any non-aggregate location data about individual customers, whether in identifiable or anonymized form. Google cannot allow its online advertising-focused digital infrastructure to be weaponized against women.”

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