Today Google announced the wide release of a new feature that will make it even easier to remove personal information from search results, including your phone number, email, and home address. The update will be available to all users by the end of next week.
Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for Search, says that the company is taking this step because it recognizes how people may feel about having personal information broadly visible in search results. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback from people that they simply find the presence of this information jarring,” Sullivan wrote in a statement to TIME.
The ability to remove personal information from Google search was first introduced in May 2022 but is now easier to use and more widely available.
“People are worried about threats, they’re worried about things like identity theft, or they’re just generally not comfortable with their personal contact information being out there,” Sullivan told TIME in May when the first version of this feature was released. “This is us trying to give people some sense of having more control over that.”
Starting early next year, the company announced, users can also opt in to alerts about new cases of personal information appearing in search results. They can then request removal.
Kinds of information you can remove from Google
While Google previously allowed users to remove personally identifiable information that could lead to issues like doxxing or financial fraud, the company updated its policy in April to include contact information and information that could put users at risk for identity theft. To get Google to take action under the new rules, the info that appears in Search needs to fit into one of the following categories:
- Contact information
- Government-issued ID numbers like a U.S. Social Security Number
- Bank account or credit card numbers
- Images of a handwritten signature or ID documents
- Private medical records
- Confidential log-in credentials.
How to submit a removal request to Google
If you’ve Googled yourself and see personal information in a search result, you can request removal by clicking on the three dots next to the result. That will take you to Google’s new removal tool, which will ask you some questions about the kind of information that’s being revealed. Then the request will be submitted and reviewed. You can also use the main Google app for iPhone or Android by navigating to the “account settings” icon in the top right and clicking on “Results about you” dropdown item.
The company notes that it doesn’t have the power to take down the website where the information actually lives. Since Google Search shows information gathered from websites across the internet, any content Google scrubs from its results can still exist online. It could be findable on other search engines or through social media.
If that’s the case, Google recommends that you contact the offending site and ask it to remove the content itself.
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