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Google to delete Location History data from places it should never have been tracking

Google has vowed to delete users’ visits to medical facilities from their Location History, which begs the question why was the company ever doing this in the first place?

In a blog post late last week, the mapping giant said that places like abortion clinics and addiction treatment facilities will be automatically removed from Location History ‘soon after they visit’.

The vow comes following the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn ‘Roe vs. Wade’, a landmark legal decision that had previously guaranteed the right to adoption at a national level in the United States. The power to allow (or not allow) abortions has now been handed back to the individual states, with many already putting bans in place.

The court’s deeply contentious decision has led to an awareness campaign for women to delete data from period tracking apps, for example, due to the threat of prosecution in some states for people who have abortions and healthcare workers who provide access to them.

Now Google is saying that, if Location History is turned on (it’s off by default), then these sensitive locations will be deleted.

“Some of the places people visit — including medical facilities like counseling centres, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centres, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others — can be particularly personal,” the company says in a blog post.

“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. This change will take effect in the coming weeks.”

Google also says it is adding a Fitbit feature that enables women to delete their menstruation logs in batches, rather than one at a time.

Trusted Take

So well done to Google, I guess? It’s a shame it took this tyrannical removal of people’s right for the company to realise these deeply personal visits to healthcare providers might not be something they want sitting alongside their recreational visits to pubs, restaurants and concert venues in a overriding Location History folder.

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