For Immediate Release
January 17, 2024
Data gathered by Accountable Tech in 7 states found that Google still collects and retains Location History data for visits to abortion clinics despite promising 18 months ago to “delete these entries”
Accountable Tech published new research today showing Google’s continued failure to delete users’ sensitive location data despite a July 2022 commitment to protect the privacy of abortion seekers after the fall of Roe v. Wade. On the heels of Google’s latest announcement that they will soon store Location History data on individual devices and encrypt cloud backups, this report makes it clear that Google cannot be trusted to follow through on its privacy promises.
In the eight experiments Accountable Tech ran across seven states, Google retained Location History data about 50% of the time. While an improvement from our initial research, a person seeking abortion would have the same odds as a coin flip to determine whether their location data might still be retained by Google and used to prosecute them.
“In post-Roe America, prosecutors are looking to Big Tech to help them build cases against abortion seekers by providing the data to track their every movement,” said Nicole Gill, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Accountable Tech. “Knowing they are complicit in the criminalization of essential care, Google has made promises to improve their privacy policies. But proof that they continue to fall short makes it clear that they cannot be trusted to protect the millions of users who rely on their products everyday. We deserve to have power over our own data, and we must fight to prevent a handful of powerful Big Tech companies from weaponizing our private information against us.”
More than 154 million people use Google Maps every month to navigate the world in their daily lives. According to POLITICO, Google received 5,764 “geofence” warrants between 2018 and 2020 from police in 10 states that have banned abortion. Privacy advocates have warned about not only Google’s data collection practices, but also their extremely high rate of compliance with law enforcement authorities – the company provides at least some information to police in about 80% of cases.
At a time when police have increasingly become overly reliant on Google location and search data, Location History is just one piece of the puzzle. This data can provide a very clear map for demonstrating someone’s travel to and from an abortion clinic, but other web activity such as Google search is still retained by the company and can be at risk of subpoena.