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Google is Saving Data on Users Pertaining to Abortion, and It’s Benefitting Abortion Prosecutors

by Emily Lauletta

Big Tech has seemingly, and unfortunately, been on the wrong side of abortion rights for years now. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been refusing to take down false information posted by fake abortion clinics, otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers. Furthermore, social media platforms have been known to hide or “shadow-ban” valuable information given by real abortion clinics. Now, Google is the next big tech company that should be added to the list of corporations that appear to be aiding anti-choice legislators.

According to research from Accountable Tech, Google Maps is collecting data that shows people who have visited abortion clinics. This is disturbing news, especially given the fact that Google had previously committed to stop collecting this data.

Abortion providers have been concerned with Google’s role in abortion prosecution for a while now. As NPR reported shortly after Roe was overturned, the FBI has used Google to solve countless crimes. Law enforcement is able to use what is known as a Geofence warrant to “seek information about every device that has crossed into a defined location in a specific period of time, say a bank at which there was recently a robbery, a home that was recently burned down, or an abortion clinic following the Supreme Court ruling.” If abortion is considered a crime by several states’ legislation, there’s reason to believe it would be used to prosecute those who are simply trying to receive healthcare. 

Google’s tools such as Maps as well as search history can retain data that a patient has visited an abortion clinic, which is becoming increasingly dangerous in this country as anti-abortion legislation is on the rise. 

From period trackers like FLO to rideshare apps, tech has been an increasing area of concern for abortion rights and reproductive justice advocates. When data on a person’s menstrual cycle or healthcare appointment is stored, there is an inherent danger that that data will be used to harm a person who lives in a state with restrictive abortion legislation

Not only can this data aid abortion prosecutors, but those who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities will disproportionately face the consequences of Google retaining this sensitive data, as well as anti-abortion legislation. 

In a recent Instagram post, the feminist and reproductive rights organization UltraViolet stated, “Lack of data privacy has always disproportionately hurt BIPOC communities, LGBTQIA+ communities, immigrants, and poor/working class people. At a time where abortion seekers and those who support abortion seekers are criminalized or threatened to be, we don’t need Big Tech watching our every move, helping police and “body hunters” punish us.”


You can join Accountable Tech in holding Google accountable to their word to stop storing abortion-related data by adding your name to their petition here.

Top photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

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