Consumers using map apps such as Google ( (GOOGL) – Get the Alphabet Inc. report) will regain some privacy, as the company says it will delete location history for certain locations, such as abortion clinics and domestic violence shelters.
On Friday, the internet giant said some of the locations people go to will be “obsolete in the coming weeks,” Core senior vice president Jen Fitzpatrick wrote in a July 1 blog post.
The company responded to consumers trying to limit the amount of information it collects about them, as several states said they would conduct abortion investigations and prosecutions.
Google said it will delete location history after someone has visited medical facilities such as abortion clinics, counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, cosmetic clinics and more.
The company said that if their systems “identify that someone has visited one of these places, we will delete those entries from the location history shortly after their visit.”
For many Americans who use maps or healthcare apps as part of their daily work, using apps for everyday tasks has become commonplace.
But the lack of privacy came into focus when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June and banned abortion.
These apps track where people go and their personal information, such as medical data about menstrual or ovulation cycles.
Google says its location history is an account setting that is turned off by default unless consumers turn it on themselves.
The new feature will allow people to automatically delete their data at any time, whether it’s some or all of it.
Lack of privacy when using apps has become a growing problem as the companies that create the apps track, store and share data with third parties.
Consumers can check out the new Data Security section used by app developers so people can understand how apps collect, share and protect their data, Google said.
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The search engine company also operates Google Fit and Fitbit, and consumers can change and delete their personal information at any time.
“For example, Fitbit users who choose to track their menstrual cycle in the app can currently delete one menstrual log at a time, and we’ll be rolling out an update that allows users to delete multiple logs at once,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
Many states have passed laws to make abortion illegal, and consumers fear that personal data about their menstrual cycles stored on apps could be turned over to authorities.
Google has received requests from officials
Google said it has rejected law enforcement requests for its customer data “including outright objections to certain requests.”
Consumers are notified when companies comply with government requirements and share the number and type of government requests in their transparency reports.
“We remain committed to protecting our users from inappropriate government requests for data, and we will continue to oppose requests that are overly broad or legally objectionable,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
Period-tracking app company Flo said consumers can delete their personal data or deactivate their accounts by emailing [email protected]
Several tech companies, such as Flo, offer people the option to use “incognito mode,” which doesn’t require any personally identifiable information, such as names, email addresses, and technical identifiers associated with accounts. The feature is available for iOS and Android devices, Flo said on June 30.
“Any data we collect is fully encrypted and that never changes,” said Susanne Schumacher, Flo’s data protection officer. “If you choose to deactivate your account, Flo will generally delete all of your personal data, which cannot be recovered if you create another account in the future.”
Enabling incognito mode means that Flo will not be able to provide a name or email to any group seeking identifying information with this mode enabled.
Karim Hijazi, CEO of Houston-based cyber intelligence firm Prevailion, told TheStreet that most apps require individuals to agree to accept various “permission requests” in order to use them, including enabling geolocation access.
“There’s an old saying, if the service is free, you’re the product,” he said. “In terms of apps, however, this applies to basically any app – even paid apps will still collect and monetize your personal information.”