Google is making it easier to remove personal info from search results

28 Apr 2022

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

Phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses are now included in the list of personal details that Google considers for removal.

Google, by far the world’s most popular search engine, is now expanding the list of personal details that can be removed upon request from search results, such as phone numbers and addresses.

Users have long been able to flag confidential personal info that could be used for theft or fraud showing up in Google search results, such as government ID, bank account and credit card info.

Future Human

Requests can also be made in cases of doxing, where a person’s contact information is shared on the internet with malicious intent. Applicants for this have had to prove that their contact info has been made public and there is also a threat of danger.

But now, the removal request service has been extended generally to personal contact information such as physical addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, as well as login credentials.

Contact info that is deemed to be of public interest however, such as an organisation or politician’s office phone number, will continue to be shown on search results.

The move marks a shift in Google’s privacy policy, and it is looking to give users more control over how sensitive or personally identifiable information can be found.

“Research has told us there’s a larger amount of personally identifiable information that users consider as sensitive,” Michelle Chang, global policy lead for Google Search, told Reuters in an exclusive interview. “They are increasingly unwilling to tolerate this content online.”

Tens of thousands of removal requests have been received by Google annually in recent years, of which Chang said only around 13pc were accepted. But she expects the approval rate to grow under the latest policy expansion.

Any info removed by Google, however, may still be accessible through other search engines.

Google has been doubling down on its privacy measures recently. Last year, it announced a set of sweeping changes to make Search, YouTube and other apps safer for kids, including removing photos on search results of under-18s upon request.

Earlier this week, Google also launched a new data safety section for all apps on its Play store, requiring developers to detail how user data will be used before an app is downloaded.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com