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Google to Automatically Delete Tracking Info on Trips to Abortion Clinics

Google to Automatically Delete Tracking Info on Trips to Abortion Clinics

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

Even before the Supreme Court ruled last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, radical abortion activists, rank and file far-leftists, and their allies in the mainstream media were already stoking outrage mobs about what in their minds was the possibility that information from a woman’s computer or phone could be used by the authorities to prosecute them for having an abortion. Some even urged women to delete any “menstrual tracking” apps they may have had on their phones as a precautionary measure:

Vice President Kamala Harris fanned the flames in comments she made two weeks before the ruling was handed down warning of how the apps supposedly could be used along with search engine information:

Post-SCOTUS decision, the calls to delete the apps (and search history, etc) reached fever pitch. This tweet, for example, has nearly 55,000 retweets and counting:

The Washington Post even joined in by giving advice on how women could stop leaving a “digital trail” of their abortion-related activity:

The WaPo also mislead readers on the issue by suggesting that “texts, web searches about abortion have been used to prosecute women” though reading the fine print one sees that the cases they cited involved a Mississippi woman in 2017 who investigators believed gave birth to a baby at 36 weeks and then killed it and another from Indiana who in 2013 reportedly aborted her baby herself at 25 weeks via “abortion-inducing drugs she bought on the Internet” and then went to the hospital to be treated for excessive bleeding.

Also, in both cases, it appears someone the woman knew (whether a medical provider or a loved one) contacted the police. In other words, the police weren’t trawling phones, computers, and hospitals looking for women to arrest.

In response to all the hyperventilating and panic, Google – which prior to June 24th had zero problems with tracking every iota of information about their users and making billion$ off of it in the process – recently announced that due to privacy concerns they would soon implement a feature that automatically deleted tracking information of a person’s phone in the event that person visited an abortion clinic:

Location History is a Google account setting that is off by default, and for those that turn it on, we provide simple controls like auto-delete so users can easily delete parts, or all, of their data at any time. 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, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others — can be particularly personal. 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.

Now while I’m no fan of Big Tech giants like Google having access to my personal information, especially anything related to tracking my movements, it struck me as kind of hypocritical for them to take a “privacy” position on this considering how open they were about the personal COVID data they tracked in order to provide COVID Community Mobility Reports” and community “Exposure Notifications” – all under the guise of “public health.” Some states even used information gleaned by Google for their own COVID tracking purposes.

All of that said, I was surprised to see NBC News of all places try to dial down the temperature a bit by noting that a lot of the hysteria surrounding digital footprints related to abortion is overblown:

The internet is filled with warnings that single points of digital health data, like details from a period tracking app or Google Maps showing that someone visited Planned Parenthood, could be used against someone in a criminal case. But experts who have studied cases in which people have been prosecuted for abortion-related crimes say those fears are largely misplaced.

In the few cases in which people have been charged, law enforcement has been mostly concerned with evidence that someone knowingly carried out an abortion-related crime. A period tracker can at best indicate that someone became and then no longer was pregnant, which stops short of proving they had an abortion.

And as far as tracking information goes:

No state laws currently ban people from going from one state to another to get an abortion.

That means law enforcement would be unable to subpoena for location data related to an out-of-state abortion, since there would be no charges to bring.

But a person charged with receiving an abortion within a state where it is illegal could have their location data subpoenaed. In recent years courts have increasingly approved geofence warrants, which requires a tech or telecom company that tracks users’ location data to identify everyone who was in a designated area at a specific time.

The only correction there is that the “trigger laws” that went into place or will soon go into place in the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling will focus on investigating providers of abortions who are still giving them, not the women who have them. Though that could still mean potentially collecting search engine and location data, again we’re talking about a situation where a loved one or a friend or someone else the person (or the provider) knows would have to make the allegation to the police in order for any investigation to commence against the provider in most instances.

There will be no “abortion police,” as some on the left have suggested. There just simply won’t be.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

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Comments

I’m so old, I remember “somebody” in California leaking the database on gun ownership applications.

We might find friends and allies among those who notice the human need for privacy.

The Planned Parenthood office is in the same strip mall as a gourmet hamburger joint. Parking is hard enough with the dozen or so anti-abortion protesters that show up daily.

But they claim the GPS data shown in “2000 Mules” was not valid because GPS is not accurate enough. Apparently, it IS accurate enough to place you at an abortion clinic, but not enough for a drop box.

    Paul in reply to datapath. | July 6, 2022 at 8:52 am

    GPS receivers in consumer grade cellphones will typically get you within plus-or-minus 3 to 5 yards of location accuracy. Basically a circle with a radius of about 10-15 feet.

    thalesofmiletus in reply to datapath. | July 6, 2022 at 8:56 am

    So if you drive to Weight Watchers on a regular basis, you’ll have to type it into Google Maps every single time just in case the cops want to prosecute you for it.

      henrybowman in reply to thalesofmiletus. | July 6, 2022 at 3:56 pm

      First off, if you drive there on a regular basis, and have to get Google to NAV you there every single time, you probably have a serious mental deficiency. Secondly, I’m almost positive they’re not talking about location information that you are requesting from things like NAV apps, but the generalized ankle monitor tracking that Google does of your cell phone every single second of every day.

    CommoChief in reply to datapath. | July 6, 2022 at 9:30 am

    Yep.

    The other aspect of the announcement is publicity that reminds users that their data is collected and monitored. Eventually we will have a majority coalition to halt it or at least require a specific affirmative opt in action not a ‘click yes to proceed’ or buried in 50 pages of user agreement.

    Milhouse in reply to datapath. | July 6, 2022 at 9:59 am

    A clinic is significantly bigger than a drop box. And in a dystopian alternative universe in which the abortion police were digging through location data to find people who’d visited abortion clinics they would probably investigate those who’d been to the store next door as well.

      Peabody in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 12:21 pm

      The government would never investigate such a thing anyway. They are looking for people like you who post in depth comments that indicate a possible threat of leading others astray from the party line—by seeking to know the truth.

LookoutABear | July 6, 2022 at 8:39 am

How about deleting all tracking data?

chrisboltssr | July 6, 2022 at 9:52 am

“There will be no ‘abortion police,” as some on the left have suggested. There just simply won’t be.”

If abortion is going to be banned and criminalized there better damned well be. You conservatives have to either accept that an unborn baby is still a human being and worthy of all the protections the law affords any other human being or not.

As I have said on other occasions, the Leftist rot has corrupted all of our institutions, and that includes the Republican Party and conservatism.

    Milhouse in reply to chrisboltssr. | July 6, 2022 at 10:05 am

    No, there will not be abortion police, just as there are no police nowadays who spend their time searching for evidence that murders have been committed. Every murder investigation begins with someone coming across evidence and reporting it; not with a detective unit searching for such evidence on spec. And that is not going to change.

    The whole notion that someone will track pregnancies and demand to know what happened with them, or that miscarriages will be investigated just to make sure they weren’t induced, is just a dystopian fantasy. So long as this remains the USA it won’t happen.

    When a person dies naturally nowadays there is not usually an investigation, unless the circumstances are so unusual that they’re inherently suspicious. Since spontaneous abortion is so common, there is nothing about it to trigger anyone’s suspicion, so there’s no reason to investigate.

      venril in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 10:46 am

      The concerns about tracking by police tells us far more about their own intentions than those of the police.

      Peabody in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      They are tracking everything. They’re like a junk collector who never throws anything away because they never know when they might need it.

        Paul in reply to Peabody. | July 6, 2022 at 1:48 pm

        That’s exactly right. The value of consumer data is so great, and the costs of storage have fallen so low that these types of companies just put everything into a “data lake” and figure out how to monetize it later.

      henrybowman in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      But of course, there could be abortion police.
      We have drug police (DEA).
      We have gun police (BATF).
      We have green police (DEA).
      We have fish police (USFWS, h/t to SNL).
      We even have politics police (FBI).
      So when your sorority sister suggests she knows a place where you can “have that taken care of,” there’s a good chance post-Roe that she’s a glowy narc and she’s setting you up.
      My my, look at all those petards Democrats just left lying around where someone could get hoist.

      chrisboltssr in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 7:05 pm

      First of all, there is no such thing as “spontaneous abortion”, I assume you are calling miscarriages that.

      Second, we do have police units which disguises themselves as criminals in order to catch criminals. If abortion is outlawed and banned then it needs to be treated as any other criminal act. And I would expect them to establish divisions to track and follow potential abortionists in much the same way they track and follow pedophiles.

      My point stands.

“Today, we’re announcing that if our systems identify that someone has visited one of these places [including abortion clinics], we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit.”

Sounds good to me. Now add gun shops to the list.

    Martin in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 10:54 am

    So do all of your less that strictly legal transaction in the parking lot of a Planned Parenthood. I wonder how PP will like it when cops just start staking out their parking lots because of all the crime going on there?

      txvet2 in reply to Martin. | July 6, 2022 at 2:28 pm

      Which brings up the question: Does this apply to males as well? (Yeah, I know, “men can get pregnant”, according to the left – even if they can’t.)

    henrybowman in reply to Milhouse. | July 6, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Beat me to it.
    I’m sure it’s just an oversight, resulting from 99.9% of their employee base being liberal pussies.

In other words they track you and store the data and know where you are and where you’ve been and this is all available to the government. Unless you are a vote mule of course.

Is the Capital technically an abortion factory?

2smartforlibs | July 6, 2022 at 10:48 am

But not to DC.

“Location History is a Google account setting that is off by default, and for those that turn it on, we provide simple controls like auto-delete so users can easily delete parts, or all, of their data at any time. 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, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others — can be particularly personal. 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.”

A placebo setting for “no tracking.” Of course they track everyone. How about you don’t track people and maintain a location history.

    Paul in reply to venril. | July 6, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Google is not the first, or even the worst offender here. They’re using their Android operating system, and many of the very convenient “free” apps they offer to capture this data. But AT&T has been gathering location “pings” by the trillions for much longer, and they do it at the level of the phone talking to the tower, so it doesn’t matter which type of phone you use… they’re still tracking you.

The US is not China yet. But it might be one day. In any case, the surveillance state is half built already. They just need to flip a few switches. (Your phone tracks you, Apps track you, public and private cameras everywhere can see and identify you if facial recognition is used. License plate recognition works, as well.) They know what websites you visit, what publications you receive, what you charged on your credit card, what food you eat and where you eat it…. What’s your credit score? Credit limits? Income? Employer? Children? Do your kids post photos of you in social media, their school? Friends? Your dog? Privacy is gone. That’s what this story is really about.

Umbrella Corporation aids and abets the performance of human rites, the wicked solution for social, redistributive, clinical, and fair weather causes.

Demos-racy is aborted in darkness, at the twilight fringe.

I am not up to speed on Google’s tracking of physical locations via your phone’s GPS but if I were to do a google search of “abortion clinics, Des Moines” Google would either decide that I am planning on getting an abortion (which Google would approve of) or that I am a right winger planning to attack a clinic (for which Google would report me). Google does track my internet use. How would it track my physical location?

    henrybowman in reply to Geologist. | July 6, 2022 at 4:11 pm

    Your question is scary, as I would have assumed that nobody in the US would be unaware of this by now. But maybe it’s tailside Dunning-Kruger on my part.

    Google wrote and owns the entire operating system for every Android phone.

    Here’s a sample list of all the times their behavior in this vein has been problematic… and that’s only the ones we know about.

Wouldn’t the simpler solution be to not track anyone ever?

NavyMustang | July 6, 2022 at 6:23 pm

Why do they want to do this? Aren’t all rabid abortion supporters proud and thrilled to have a life snuffed out?

It’s not as if abortion will be illegal in all of the US.

Rent in near by properties will now have a premium.

Rent an apartment next door and everyday your tracking will be deleted.

A shame I’m not a drug lord or this is where I would locate!