To help shield people from having too much of their personal information online, Google is going to allow the public to request that the tech giant remove certain pieces of personal information from its search results. Now, just by making a simple request, anyone could ask that Google remove contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and even login credentials from search queries.
The company has offered this in the past, but it was in limited, special circumstances, such as when information fraudsters steal bank and credit card details or across-the-line situations like non-consensual intimate personal images.
The company is taking the same precautions now that it’s broadening those requests, but it’s not doing it willy-nilly or by machine. It will still review each request to ensure that it's real, and the company said it won’t delete references that are contained in a news article or are a matter of public record, like a mayor asking to have their office telephone number at city hall removed.
“The internet is always evolving – with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways — so our policies and protections need to evolve, too,” Google said in a blog post. “Open access to information is a key goal of Search, but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private. That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search.”
How to request Google remove personal information
For Google to even consider a request to remove content, it first has to pertain to the following types of information:
Confidential government identification (ID) numbers like a U.S. Social Security number.
Bank account numbers
Credit card numbers
Images of handwritten signatures
Images of ID docs
Highly personal, restricted, and official records, like medical records
Personal contact information (physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses)
Confidential login credentials
If someone is being “doxxed” -- the term for a type of cyber harassment in which someone is using a computer or a phone to purposely cause another person to fear for their well-being -- Google is willing to help remove any content that might lead to that.
For Google to consider the content for removal, it must meet both of these requirements:
Your contact info is present.
There’s the presence of explicit threats, implicit threats, or explicit or implicit calls to action for others to harm or harass.
Google reminds people that it will do its part to remove information upon request, but consumers' data may still be available in other ways online.
“It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you're comfortable doing so,” the company said.