Google often shares its trove of historical location information of millions of smartphone users with government agencies (Picture: AP Photo)

US lawmakers are urging Google to ‘stop unnecessarily collecting’ customer location data that can be used to identify people who’ve had abortions.

On Wednesday, 42 US Democrats signed an open letter to Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, cautioning him against the company’s advertising-focused digital infrastructure possibly being weaponised against women.

‘In a world in which abortion could be made illegal, Google’s current practice of collecting and retaining extensive records of cell phone location data will allow it to become a tool for far-right extremists looking to crack down on people seeking reproductive health care,’ said the letter.

While Google insists on a warrant before disclosing location data to law enforcement, if abortion is made illegal by the Supreme Court, prosecutors can obtain legal warrants to ‘hunt down, prosecute and jail women’ for seeking abortions.

The lawmakers pointed out that Google often shares its trove of historical location information of millions of smartphone users with government agencies.

Google is only able to collect location data from users of iPhones when they are using the Google Maps app (Credits: AP)

Law enforcement officials routinely obtain court orders forcing Google to turn over its customers’ location information, including dragnet ‘geofence’ orders demanding data about everyone who was near a particular location at a given time.

In 2020 alone, Google received 11,554 geofence warrants.

‘The only way to protect your customers’ location data from such outrageous government surveillance is to not keep it in the first place,’ said the letter.

The letter goes on to state that Android users might be at higher risk of Google storing their information than iPhone users.

This is because Google’s Android operating system can only enable third party apps to access location data if they also allow Google to receive their location data too.

In contrast, Google is only able to collect location data from users of iPhones when they are using the Google Maps app.

‘Americans who can afford an iPhone have greater privacy from government surveillance of their movements than the tens of millions Americans using Android devices,’ said the lawmakers.

Google was encouraged to follow Apple’s example to not retain invasive databases of their customers’ locations.

Metro.co.uk has reach out to Google for comment.


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