Google is closing a gap that allowed thousands of businesses to track and sell highly sensitive data from Android smartphones.
Third-party tracking is standard in the mobile app business. For years, companies have tracked and sold the data of Android users of apps for period tracking, pregnancy and family planning. The method recently came under scrutiny due to the US Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw abortions in the US.
Activists and researchers fear that app data will be used to police women for considering or pursuing abortions. Resultingly, Google announced it will automatically delete the location history on phones that have been near a sensitive medical location like an abortion clinic.
Furthermore, from July 12 onwards, Google will restrict developers from viewing the apps stored on a user’s phone. Privacy groups applaud the move, which should make it harder for personal data to be used in enforcing new and restrictive abortion rules.
Tracking carries more risk
Google’s actions coincide with rising concerns that US states would weaponize smartphone applications to enforce new abortion restrictions across the country.
Lists of Android users who use applications for tracking periods, pregnancy, and family planning, like Planned Parenthood Direct, have been collected and sold by companies in the past.
Researchers and campaigners for privacy have urged women to remove period trackers from their phones during the last week to prevent monitoring or penalization for exploring abortions.