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Warning about Google location data targeting women in the US who want an abortion

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Google often shares its trove of historical location information from millions of smartphone users with government agencies (Image: AP Photo)

US lawmakers are asking Google to stop unnecessarily collecting customer location data that can be used to identify people who have had abortions.

On Wednesday, 42 US Democrats signed an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, warning him that the company’s advertising-focused digital infrastructure could potentially be used against women.

“In a world where abortion could become illegal, Google’s current practice of collecting and keeping extensive records of cell phone location data will make it a tool for right-wing extremists trying to crack down on people seeking reproductive healthcare.” said the letter.

While Google insists on a warrant before it releases location data to law enforcement, if abortion is ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, prosecutors can obtain statutory warrants to “hunt down, prosecute and jail women,” the one want an abortion.

Lawmakers pointed out that Google frequently shares its trove of historical location information from millions of smartphone users with government agencies.

Pro-abortion rights protesters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday, May 14, 2022, amid nationwide protests. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Google is only able to collect location data from iPhone users when they use the Google Maps app (Credits: AP)

Law enforcement officials routinely obtain court orders forcing Google to release its customers’ location information, including grid-network “geofence” orders that require data on everyone who was near a specific location at a specific time.

In 2020 alone, Google received 11,554 geofence warrants.

“The only way to protect your customers’ location data from such outrageous government surveillance is to not keep it in the first place,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to say that Android users may be at greater risk of Google storing their information than iPhone users.

Because Google’s Android operating system can only allow third-party apps to access location data if they also allow Google to receive their location data.

In contrast, Google can only collect location data from iPhone users if they use the Google Maps app.

“Americans who can afford an iPhone have more privacy from government surveillance of their movements than the tens of millions of Americans who use Android devices,” lawmakers said.

Google was encouraged to follow Apple’s lead and not keep invasive databases of its customers’ locations.

Metro.co.uk contacted Google for comment.

MORE : Facebook tells employees to stop discussing abortion in the workplace

MORE : US lawmaker Nancy Pelosi banned receiving Holy Communion for supporting abortion rights

https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/26/warning-over-google-location-data-targeting-us-women-seeking-abortions-16707963/ Warning about Google location data targeting women in the US who want an abortion

Justin Scacco

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