The Supreme Court Accidentally Spurred a Data Privacy Push

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hello people The The week’s winner is Reed Hastings, who lost a million subscribers but saw Netflix’s stock soar because he didn’t lose more. What a showman!

The Flat View

I got an email from Google the other day. “Dear Steven,” the text said, “This is a reminder that all existing location history data you have in your Google Account will be deleted on September 1, 2022.” This was a surprise to me, because I thought I had long ago turned off the voluntary feature that allowed Google to record my whereabouts, as if I had my own personal Mossad agent following me around 24 hours a day. I checked my account and found that while I had reported my silent shadow to be removed, I hadn’t cleared my location history from before, which included my whereabouts from June 2013 to January 2019. If the government subpoenaed me, I would know everything.

I appreciated Google’s promise to proactively delete it. Given the timing, I wondered if the email was a reaction to the Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson decision, denying the right to abortion. He had not; I had forgotten that Google periodically sends such notices in cases like mine, where location data is pending. But Google understands that Dobbs The decision has made the processing of personal data a more urgent issue. Not just Google, but all the tech giants (and many smaller app developers) could routinely find themselves handing over information that could lead to prosecutions of abortion seekers and those who help them. Meanwhile, people are deleting apps that track their menstrual cycles, fearing the data could be used against those suspected of having an abortion.

So it’s no surprise that within a week of the Supreme Court’s strange reading of the Constitution, Google adopted a new policy: From now on, when people visit certain medical facilities: ” counseling centers, domestic violence shelters, abortion clinics, fertility centers, etc. addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic surgery clinics” – Google will quickly remove these stops from the ‘user’s location history.

This is a welcome step, but hardly a solution to the steady erosion of our privacy in the digital age. Big companies insist they are on the case. Google, like almost every big tech company, has a giant privacy effort with well-meaning people trying to protect their users from dystopian abuses of their technology. Apple has made privacy protection a marketing focus, using end-to-end encryption for critical data. (Also, Apple doesn’t have an equivalent to Google’s location history, even for those who want it.)

But we’re still miles away from proper privacy. All in all, it’s nearly impossible to make the most of today’s wonderful technology without making our personal information vulnerable, either to governments, hackers or, all too often, advertisers. We’ve built an entire infrastructure based on absorbing data. So it’s no surprise that when state governments are contemplating a cosplay of The Handmaid’s Talewe have to worry about pregnant people being judged by their phones and their apps.

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