More than 40 Democratic members of Congress called on Google to stop collecting and storing customer location data that prosecutors could use to identify women who obtain abortions.
"We are concerned that, if abortion becomes illegal, Google's current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data could be used by far-right extremists to crack down on those seeking reproductive health care if abortion becomes illegal.
According to a letter led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Google stores historical location data about hundreds of millions of smartphone users, which it routinely shares with government agencies. Google CEO Sundar Pichai was notified of the letter on May 24.
The original version of this story appeared at Ars Technica, a trusted source of technology news, technology policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED's parent company, Condé Nast.
“Google should stop collecting unnecessary customer location data” or “any non-aggregate location data about individual customers, whether identifiable or anonymous.”
“Google cannot let its online advertising-focused digital infrastructure be weaponized against women,” lawmakers wrote. Additionally, they told Google that people with iPhones are less likely to be monitored by the government than the tens of millions of Americans who use Android phones.”
As a result of a draft Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, many states could impose strict limits or bans on abortion, and Democrats wrote that Republicans in Congress have already begun talking about criminalizing abortion in every state, putting the government in charge of women's bodies.
Google deserves credit for being one of the first companies to insist on a warrant before revealing location information to law enforcement. However, that is not enough. In the event that abortion is declared illegal .
The far-right Supreme Court and Republican lawmakers, it is inevitable that right-wing prosecutors will obtain legal warrants to pursue, prosecute, and jail women for receiving critical reproductive health care. You can only protect your customers' location data from such outrageous government surveillance if you don't keep it in the first place.
They wrote that Google obtains detailed information "from Android smartphones, which collect and transmit location information to Google, regardless of whether the device is in use or what application a user has open."
The Google privacy settings for location are a bit confusing, even for some Google employees. According to documents from a consumer fraud suit Arizona filed against Google, employees at the company knew and discussed among themselves that the location privacy settings were confusing and potentially misleading.
There is no legal requirement for Google to record and keep records of its customers' movements. Apple has demonstrated that smartphone companies do not have to keep invasive databases of their customers' locations.
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