employee petition calls for abortion data collection to stop

The document demands that Google stop collecting data from users seeking abortion information.

A group of Google employees is urging the company to stop collecting data from search engine users who want to learn about abortion, says the Wall Street Journal. To this end, a petition, signed by more than 650 employees and sent Monday, August 15 to the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, asks Google to take a series of measures.

Respect for privacy

First, “immediate user data privacy controls for all health-related activities,” such as researching reproductive issues and finding information about abortion services. The signatories also called on Google to correct “misleading search results related to abortion services by removing results for bogus abortion service providers” such as pregnancy crisis centers, facilities that counsel women not to terminate their pregnancies.

Among other demands, employees asked Alphabet to end anti-abortion lobbying efforts through its internal political action committee and take steps to limit ads about publishers of “misinformation related to abortion services”. The petitioners also called on Alphabet to create a 50% employee representative task force to address abortion-related issues across the company.

Tech companies under close scrutiny

According to a representative of the Alphabet Workers Union, a union of employees of the parent company of Google, Sundar Pichai has not yet responded to the grievances of the employees. Because since the Supreme Court ruling last June, which overturned Roe v. Wade, technology companies and location data brokers are under increased scrutiny from US authorities.

Privacy advocates worry that prosecutors will use warrants or subpoenas to demand data showing users who have visited abortion clinics or searched for related information. This data could be used to build legal cases against people accused of having abortions in states that have banned the procedure.

A politically sensitive subject

But the Mountain View firm, like most tech companies, has said it will respond to requests from government agencies for user data as Google’s handling of abortion rules has become a politically sensitive issue. in the USA. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling, in a letter to Google, more than 20 Democratic members of Congress urged the firm to take steps to limit the appearance of pregnancy crisis centers in searches related to pregnancy. abortion.

The following month, 17 attorneys general from the Republican ranks responded with their own letter warning that they would take action against the company if it suppressed findings related to these facilities, which they said provide important medical services. For its part, the Alphabet Workers Union responded by issuing a public statement at the end of June that urged Google to stop storing “any data that could be used to prosecute users exercising their bodily autonomy in the United States”.

In response to these various injunctions, Google said in July that it would begin automatically deleting data about physical visits to abortion clinics recorded by its products. Following the announcement, Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that the company will “work on new ways to strengthen and improve these protections over time.”

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