Senate Democrats Write to Google Over Concerns About Abortion Seekers’ Location Data | CNN Business
Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to Google this week with questions about how it deletes users’ location history when they’ve visited sensitive sites like abortion clinics, expressing concern that the company may not have deleted data consistently as promised.
The letter, dated Monday and directed by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono, seeks answers from Google about the types of locations Google considers sensitive and how long it takes for the company to automatically delete browsing history.
The letter comes after tests by The Washington Post and other privacy advocates appeared to show that Google was not quickly or consistently removing users’ recorded visits to Planned Parenthood clinic fertility centers.
“This data is extremely personal and includes information about reproductive health care,” the senators wrote. “We are also concerned that it could be used to target advertisements for services that may be unnecessary or potentially physically, psychologically or emotionally harmful.”
Concerns about the security of location data have risen in Washington since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, opening the door to state laws that restricted or penalized abortion seekers. Under those laws, privacy advocates have said, states could force tech companies to hand over location data that could reveal whether a person has sought an illegal abortion.
“Publicly claiming and announcing that Google will delete sensitive location data, without doing so consistently, could be considered a deceptive practice,” the senators added, implying that Google’s conduct could be grounds for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is authorized to police unfair and deceptive business practices.
Google declined to comment on the lawmakers’ letter Wednesday, instead referring CNN to a blog post that answers some, but not all, of the senators’ questions.
Google defines sensitive sites as “including counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics and others” , according to a blog post update dated May 12. if you visit a general purpose medical facility (such as a hospital), the visit may persist.”
The blog post, however, does not address the senators’ request that Google explain what it means when it says data will be deleted “shortly after” a visit.