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Google seeks to stop collecting information and location data to protect abortion patients in US

More than 40 Democrats in the US Congress have called on Google to stop collecting and storing location data on individuals, arguing that the information could be used to identify women seeking abortions.

In a letter to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Parent Alphabet, on Tuesday, lawmakers expressed concern that if abortion became illegal in the US, the company’s current practice of collecting extensive records of cell phone location data would be allowed.

If the US Supreme Court overturns a 1973 decision to legalize abortion – in the coming weeks, according to a draft opinion – pregnancies could be monitored and data shared with police or sold to vigilantes, privacy experts fear.

Google, in particular, stores “historic location information about hundreds of millions of smartphone users,” which it typically shares with government agencies, the letter said.

Alphabet representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tech companies have increasingly tried to stay away from the abortion debate. The Facebook-owned meta reminded employees that workplace communication channels are prohibited from discussing abortion. Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

In their letter, Democrats, led by Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, asked Google to stop collecting and keeping records of every movement of its customers.

Law enforcement officials routinely obtain court orders, forcing Google to change the location information and letter notes of its customers. It contains “Geofence” orders, which are requests to Google to provide data about everyone near a specific location at a specific time.

According to the company, Google received 11,554 Geofence warrants in 2020. It did not say how many were committed to it.

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