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July 20, 2015

Generally, I welcome new technology, on my phones and on my computer. Google is my favorite for answering all kinds of curious whims. However, in one instance Google Maps did harm that can affect many women who rely on secrecy for their safety.

Recently, in Santa Rosa, California, Google maps listed the YMCA’s safe house for abused women and their children. To be fair, anyone looking for the shelter by name would have received a response saying that the shelter was in an undisclosed location. So far, so good.

However the program for the map did not pickup the undisclosed location message. The arrow pointed to exactly the location of the shelter on the street map.

An article in the Press Deomocrat tells us that when they were informed of the error, Google erased the location from the map. I hope their action was timely and that no resident was harmed as a result.

I believe in openness in the press and online. I feel that we citizens have the right to correct information about the world we live in. We seem to expect nowadays that we no longer have much privacy unless we ensure that our data is encrypted to the extent that even we cannot access it without several additional steps.

This is not just a local issue. Nationally and worldwide we need to consider the affect our actions have on our fellow citizens. No matter how clever technology becomes, its developers must act with accuracy and compassion when it comes to keeping us safe. I include military installations, the president’s itinerary, and safe houses for threatened crime-witnesses in my recommendation for secure location information.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, stricken and crippled by polio, the press willingly cooperated with the White House in not publishing photos of his struggles to stand and walk. Unfortunately in its search for top ratings, the media often forgets such courtesies today. Texters seem to consider any thought or occasion as a subject for public distribution.

I’ve noticed that since technology gave us the opportunity to instantly access information, the respect for even contracted nondisclosure agreements and personal privacy is weakening and in some cases it has disappeared.

Just because we can access private information, we don’t have the right to do so when safety of abused women is at stake. I support the effort to banish the addresses of all domestic violence shelters from Google’s  and other search engines’ data base.

Has your shelter been “outed” by a search engine?  Was anyone hurt by the disclosure? My readers and I would like to hear about it and about what you did to correct the error. Please respond to this post or email me at


C.L.Woodhams, author.

The Outreach Committee, a multiple award winning suspense novel

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