Roe’s overturn is tech’s privacy apocalypse

Scott Rosenberg at Axios: “America’s new abortion reality is turning tech firms’ data practices into an active field of conflict — a fight that privacy advocates have long predicted and company leaders have long feared.

Why it matters: A long legal siege in which abortion-banning states battle tech companies, abortion-friendly states and their own citizens to gather criminal evidence is now a near certainty.

  • The once-abstract privacy argument among policy experts has transformed overnight into a concrete real-world problem, superheated by partisan anger, affecting vast swaths of the U.S. population, with tangible and easily understood consequences.

Driving the news: Google announced Friday a new program to automatically delete the location data of users who visit “particularly personal” locations like “counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics, and others.”

  • Google tracks the location of any user who turns on its “location services” — a choice that’s required to make many of its programs, like Google Search and Maps, more useful.
  • That tracking happens even when you’re logged into non-location-related Google services like YouTube, since Google long ago unified all its accounts.

Between the lines: Google’s move won cautious applause but left plenty of open concerns.

  • It’s not clear how, and how reliably, Google will identify the locations that trigger automatic data deletion.
  • The company will not delete search requests automatically — users who want to protect themselves will have to do so themselves.
  • A sudden gap in location data could itself be used as evidence in court…(More)”.