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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Workers demand Google expand abortion protections post-Roe

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

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Below: The FTC threatens to sue an adtech firm, and Australia’s top court sides with Google in a defamation case. First:

Workers demand Google expand abortion protections post-Roe

Google staffers are calling on the tech giant to take greater steps to protect workers’ reproductive health, including by expanding travel benefits for medical services to contractors and halting political donations to antiabortion groups.

In a petition circulated by the Alphabet Workers Union and shared with The Technology 202, more than 650 workers demand that the company create a task force to implement a slew of policy and product changes aimed at addressing abortion-related risks. 

The move marks the first major organizing campaign at Google in response to the Supreme Court ruling revoking the right to abortion, which sparked backlash among workers in Silicon Valley.

“For us this is a fundamental crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately and swiftly and not just put on the back burner,” said Alejandra Beatty, a lead organizer on the petition.

After the June decision, Google reiterated in a memo to staff that their benefits package allows employees to travel out of state for medical procedures that are unavailable to them, including abortions, and that they can apply for permanent relocation “without justification.”

But union leaders say that crucially leaves out contractors and temporary workers who are not afforded the same benefits — many of whom live in states cracking down on abortions. 

“I have fellow co-workers, a couple thousand in Texas, that have not been granted travel reimbursement, and they're actually the people who need it,” said Beatty, who leads the union’s Southwest chapter. 

Google declined to comment. Organizers said company leaders had yet to respond to the petition.

Google is the latest tech company to face mounting calls to action from its workforce amid an intensifying nationwide crackdown on abortions. 

More than 1,600 Amazon employees signed an earlier petition demanding that the company denounce the overturning of Roe, stop donating to politicians who oppose abortion, sponsor abortion rights protests and expand travel benefits for workers. The company didn’t return a request for comment at the time. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Workers at the gaming giant Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft announced plans to buy, protested in July to demand the company offer greater protections related to abortions. They called for workers living in “locations passing discriminatory legislation,” such as antiabortion laws, to be offered relocation assistance, as my colleague Shannon Liao reported.

The new petition demands that Google protect users “from having their data used against them and addressing the disinformation and misleading information,” including by removing fake results for abortion clinic and boosting health-related privacy controls. 

Google said in July it would begin deleting the location history for users “soon” after they visit abortion clinics and other sensitive locations. Democrats have called on companies to limit their collection of sensitive information amid fears states will use the data to prosecute abortions.

Beatty called the announcement a “good start.” But the petition calls for more sweeping action, stating that “abortion access information on Google must never be saved, handed over to law enforcement, or treated as a crime.”

Google workers are also urging the giant to scale back its political contributions, particularly for officials “responsible for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and continue to infringe on other human rights issues.”

The petition broadly calls out “corporate influence” in government and the company's role in it by lobbying public officials through its PAC and network of advocacy groups. 

At minimum, Beatty said, Google should “not fund those who are attacking reproductive rights.” The letter does not specify individual groups or examples. But it could put pressure on the tech giant to halt donations to a flurry of conservative groups.  

According to a May analysis by left-leaning Popular Information news site, “Google has donated $525,702 to antiabortion political groups since 2016,” including $225,702 to the Republican Governors Association, $195,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee and $105,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Our top tabs

FTC threatened to sue adtech firm revealing sensitive medical visits, company says

"The agency’s proposed complaint, against Idaho-based Kochava, argues the company violates laws that prohibit 'unfair or deceptive practices' by allowing its customers to license data collected from mobile devices that can identify people and track their visits to health-care providers," Cat Zakrzewski reports.

The action comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June. It also comes as privacy advocates warn that people’s digital trails could be used as evidence that they committed a crime.

Kochava, which said it received a proposed complaint from the FTC “in or about July and August,” blasted the action. “This is a manipulative attempt by the FTC to give the appearance that it is protecting consumer privacy despite being based on completely false pretenses,” Brian Cox, the general manager of the Kochava Collective, the company’s data marketplace, told The Post in a statement. The FTC declined to comment. 

TikTok says it will emphasize ban on paid political influencers ahead of midterms

The company plans to publish new materials that explain its ban on paid political work with influencers to firms and content creators, the Verge’s Makena Kelly reports. The company also plans to promote authoritative election information and results, TikTok said. It’s the latest announcement by a major social media platform in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

“Last week, Twitter said that it would bring back its tools to take down false and misleading election information,” Makena writes. “Google came to an agreement with the Federal Election Commission last week to launch a new program allowing for candidates and political groups to bypass Gmail’s spam filters, ensuring their fundraising messages reach voter inboxes. In a Tuesday blog post, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said that its midterms approach would be ‘consistent with the policies and safeguards’ the platform instituted during the 2020 presidential election.”

Australian court rules for Google in defamation case

Australia’s High Court said Google isn’t liable for defamatory links that show up in search results, the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Cherney reports. It’s a win for the tech giant in Australia, where policymakers have sought to increase pressure on technology companies over defamation.

“Several earlier Australian court rulings found social media and news organizations liable for content on their platforms,” Cherney writes. “In June, a lower-court judge ordered Google to pay about $515,000 over videos posted on its YouTube platform that were found to be defamatory. Last year, the high court ruled that newspapers and television stations are liable for users’ comments on articles the papers and stations post on Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook service — a decision some legal experts said could hinder media companies’ ability to promote important public-interest journalism.”

Google and George Defteros, the lawyer who argued that the company should be considered a publisher of defamatory content, did not respond to the Wall Street Journal’s requests for comment.

Rant and rave

Amazon is testing a “feed” feature in its app that is similar to TikTok, the Wall Street Journal’s Sebastian Herrera reports. Photo editor Cameron Pollack:

Journalist Karen Kwok:

Reporter Ryan Mac:

Inside the industry

Amazon tests TikTok-like feed in app (Wall Street Journal)

Workforce report

An 'absurdly high' number of employees flee Twitter as they lose faith in leadership (Insider)

Github employees are upset firm is willing to 'sell out our users' to Facebook with privacy update (Insider)

Agency scanner

Trump ordered social media visa screening. Biden's defending it. (Protocol)

Privacy monitor

Period-tracking apps won’t say whether they’ll hand your data over to cops (Vice News)


Don’t use your kids to test Tesla’s safety features, NHTSA warns (Bloomberg)


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