Google has pledged to delete users’ visits to medical facilities from their location history, which begs the question why the company would do this in the first place?
In a blog post late last week, the mapping giant said places like abortion clinics and addiction treatment facilities will be automatically removed from the location history “as soon as they visit.”
The pledge comes on the heels of the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a landmark legal decision that once guaranteed the right to national adoption in the US. The authority to allow (or disallow) abortion has now been returned to individual states, with many already imposing bans.
The controversial court decision has led to an awareness campaign for women to delete data from menstrual-tracking apps, for example, due to the threat of prosecution in some states for people who have performed abortions and the health care workers who provide access to it.
Google now says that if Location History is turned on (it’s off by default), these sensitive sites will be deleted.
“Some of the places people visit—including medical facilities like counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, plastic surgery clinics, and more—can be especially personal,” the company says in a blog post.
“Today we are announcing that if our systems determine that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from the Location History immediately upon their visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”
Google also says it’s adding a Fitbit feature that enables women to delete their menstrual records in batches, rather than one at a time.
Well done at Google, I think? It’s a shame that it took this authoritarian deregulation of people’s right for the company to realize that these deeply personal visits to health care providers might not be something they want to sit alongside their leisure visits to bars, restaurants and concert venues in a dominant volume of site history.