As Many States Seek to Criminalize Abortion, Eshoo, Wyden and 40 Members of Congress Call on Google to Limit Collection and Storage of Location Data

May 24, 2022
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., with 40 members of Congress, called on Google to stop collecting and retaining location information, to prevent extremist prosecutors from using that information to identify people obtaining abortions, in a letter sent today. 

“We believe that abortion is health care. We will fight tooth and nail to ensure that it remains recognized as a fundamental right, and that all people in the United States have control over their own bodies,” the members wrote. “That said, we are concerned that, 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.”

Google has designed its Android operating system to transmit back to Google location information whenever any app on the phone uses location services, unlike iPhones, which collect and retain far less location information. The company also collects location data from users of Google Maps.

As a result, law-enforcement agencies are able to send so-called “geofence warrants” to Google, demanding the company turn over information about all phones that Google knows were near a particular place at a particular time. State and local officials could use geofence warrants to target doctors who provide abortions, or identify women who travel out of state to obtain reproductive health care. 

“If abortion is made illegal by the far-right Supreme Court and Republican lawmakers, it is inevitable that right-wing prosecutors will obtain legal warrants to hunt down, prosecute and jail women for obtaining critical reproductive health care. The only way to protect your customers’ location data from such outrageous government surveillance is to not keep it in the first place,” they wrote.

Eshoo and Wyden are joined by Senators Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Tina Smith, D-Minn. and Tammy Duckworth D-Ill.

Representatives Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Lori Trahan, D-Mass., Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Katie Porter, D-Calif ., Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., Judy Chu, D-Calif., Andy Levin, D-Mich., Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., Rosa DeLauro, D-Ct., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.,Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa. signed the letter to Google.

Read the full letter to Google here.

A web version of this release is here.

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