For Immediate Release
April 11, 2023
Location tracking and Google Maps search data could be weaponized to aid prosecutions under draconian new anti-abortion laws
Today, Accountable Tech released new field research – documented in real-time by an NBC News crew – revealing that Google continues to collect and retain location data from individuals visiting abortion clinics, which could be weaponized by prosecutors, despite the tech behemoth’s repeated claims to the contrary.
“Google went out of its way to promise users protection in a post-Roe America. They lied,” said Nicole Gill, Executive Director of Accountable Tech. “At a time when those in need of reproductive care are already facing tremendous physical and legal peril – and with newfound uncertainty over future access to the medication that currently accounts for the majority of all US abortions – it is unconscionable that Google would further endanger abortion-seekers and those who help them receive abortion care. Google must immediately stop its collection and retention of this intimate data that risks being weaponized in outrageous abortion prosecutions, and come clean to their users about the truth of their surveillance practices. Big Tech is once again prioritizing its toxic business model over the safety of its users – and it needs to stop now.”
Google Blog Post, 7/1/2022: Protecting people’s privacy on health topics | “Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited [an abortion clinic], we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit.”
On 3/24/2o23, Accountable Tech ran a test across three different phones with various settings – two iPhones and one Android – searching for sensitive locations in Google Maps, including the terms “abortion clinic” and “Planned Parenthood,” before navigating to and stopping at the closest Planned Parenthood to Capitol Hill in DC. Three weeks later, Google had retained all of those queries, along with detailed location history data from the trip to the clinic.