LONDON: Researchers have accused Google of failing to live up to its promises after the company vowed to protect the location history of people who visit abortion clinics.
Tech Transparency Project, the research arm of the non-profit organization Campaign for Accountability, found that Android users could still get access to the location history of another user’s device without the latter being notified that they could be tracked.
“It is unclear how Google plans to implement these (abortion-related) policies and how long sensitive locations will remain on users’ location timelines before the tech giant deletes them,” TTP said in a report.
“When TTP took a phone to an abortion clinic, the clinic’s exact location remained in Google’s location history for more than a week, suggesting that either Google has not yet implemented these changes or the company’s system for detecting and removing sensitive locations is faulty.”
Google responded to the allegations, calling TTP’s experiment an “unlikely scenario” given the circumstances under which a user would access someone’s device breaching its security and privacy protections.
“We’re always looking at ways to provide people with more controls and protections in every scenario, however unlikely,” a Google spokesperson said.
“As we announced earlier this month, if our systems identify that someone who has opted into Location History visits an abortion clinic, among other places, we will delete these entries from Location History soon after they visit. The change is now in effect and will apply to all such visits moving forward.”
In early July, Google released a statement pledging to protect the privacy of those seeking abortions in the US by deleting location data showing when users visit abortion clinics.
The move comes after concerns that a digital trail could inform authorities if an individual terminates a pregnancy illegally.
At the time, the tech giant said the change would take effect “in the coming weeks.”
“We’re committed to delivering robust privacy protections for people who use our products, and we will continue to look for new ways to strengthen and improve these protections,” the company said in a statement announcing its commitment to strengthening user privacy.