Research suggests that Google may store details of searches for abortion clinics, despite the pledge to protect users' data. The study raises the question of whether such data could be provided to law enforcement in the US states where abortions are banned, the Guardian reports.
Following the Supreme Court's decision to end the constitutional protection of abortion at a federal level in June, Google announced it would delete entries for "personal" locations, including abortion clinics.
The company, however, did not indicate how long after a visit it would delete the data.
In August and October, the tech advocacy group Accountable Tech conducted an experiment, which was published in the Guardian. Using a brand new Android device, researchers analyzed their Google activity timeline, where the company shows what information is logged about an account holder's actions.
The study found that searches for directions to abortion clinics on Google Maps and the routes taken to visit two Planned Parenthood locations were stored in their Google activity timeline for weeks after it occurred.
The Guardian reports that any information collected by Google is potentially subject to law enforcement requests, including the data logged in "My Activity."
To date, abortions are banned or severely restricted in at least 15 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health nonprofit organization.
After the constitutional right to an abortion was overturned, requests for abortion pills via telemedicine in the US significantly increased, according to a recent study. As pills are often shipped from abroad, doctors warn that self-managed medical abortion may pose serious health risks, including death.
Media reports also describe cases of denied medical care to miscarrying women, as doctors fear that treatment will later be interpreted as an abortion.