Earlier this week, we teamed up with 13 advocacy organizations including UltraViolet, Supermajority, Reproaction, Color of Change, GLAAD, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Kairos, and Media Justice to call attention to Google’s failed promises to protect abortion seekers.
After Google announced a policy update in July 2022 to protect sensitive location data for those seeking abortion care, Accountable Tech put them to the test. Over the next few months, our Policy Manager Aditi Ramesh and I each headed to different Planned Parenthood facilities in Pittsburgh, D.C. and Los Angeles. We discovered that Google continued to collect and store Location History data for trips to abortion clinics for users with that setting enabled.
Repeat experiments by our team and Geoff Fowler at the Washington Post this year found Google is still collecting and retaining Location History in some cases, and retaining location search queries by default for up to 18 months.Since Google complies with over 75% of government requests for information, this sensitive location data could potentially be subpoenaed and weaponized by right-wing state governments to prosecute those seeking or assisting with reproductive care. Despite growing pressure from advocacy groups and half-baked statements from their communications team, Google’s simply has not lived up to the commitment they made last July.
On Tuesday, we led our Day of Action calling on Google to stop collecting and retaining location data, which could be used to prosecute people seeking abortion care in post-Roe America. The following day, we flew an airplane banner reading “PROTECT ABORTION PRIVACY” over Google’s annual I/O developer conference to get the attention of Google CEO Sundar Pichai during his keynote.