Google will now allow you to ask it to remove more information

Google now allows users to ask them to remove sites from search results that list more types of personal information than before, including details such as your phone number or physical address. This is important because, until now, Google only removed links containing information that could be actively used to steal your identity or money, such as your social security number or credit card details.

In a blog post yesterday, Google explained that it believes “it is important to control how your sensitive and personally identifiable information can be found”. Although it doesn’t necessarily host a lot of personal data, Google search is often the tool that brings it up on other sites. This puts him in a rather unique position because, as he explains, “The Internet is constantly changing – with information appearing in unexpected places and being used in new ways – so our policies and protections must also evolve.”

According to Google, under the new policy, the company will now consider removing links to sites that include “personal contact information such as a phone number, email address, or physical address.” And The Verge notes that this type of information could now also include “images of identity documents” or “confidential login credentials”.

This is in addition to information it already had a policy of deleting, including confidential government ID numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, images of handwritten signatures and highly personal records. restricted and official, such as medical records.

As The Verge points out, Google will also remove “non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images”, “unintentional fake pornography” like deepfakes, and links to “sites with exploitative removal practices”. There is also a separate process for requesting removal of (non-exploitative) photographs of minors, which we have covered in detail before.

Getting Google to remove credentials, while now possible, isn’t necessarily easy or guaranteed. To remove personally-identifying information, or “doxxing” content, for example, the tech giant requires your contact information to be listed, as well as the presence of “express or implied threats, or calls for express or implied action to cause others to harm or harass.” This means that if your phone number is just listed on a Craigslist ad or your address is included in a local news article, Google is unlikely to remove the link from search, if there isn’t also the corresponding threat. Likewise, deleting your information from data brokers, such as Spokeo, Intellius, or MyLife, requires a different approach.

To make a removal request, you need to fill out a fairly detailed form that lists the URL of the content you want to remove, the Google search URL that displays it, and “representative screenshots” showing the personal content or otherwise identifier. Depending on what you ask to be deleted, Google may contact you and ask for even more information, possibly proof that you are who you say you are.

When it receives your removal request, Google’s moderators “evaluate all content on the webpage to ensure that we are not limiting the availability of other broadly useful information.” They will also “evaluate whether content appears as part of the public record on government or official source sites,” and in those cases, will not make removals. Likewise, if Google considers the link to contain content “from or from government and other official sources”, “newsworthy”, or “relevant to professionals”, you’re out of luck.

If your request is successful, Google strips the URL from all search queries or only those that include your name or other identifying information. This means that if something like a forum post explicitly doxes you, it will likely be removed from all searches, while a long post of contact information for hundreds of people will only be removed when someone searches specifically your name.

Google also clarifies that removing links from its search results does not remove anything from the Internet. If you want things to go away completely, it’s suggested that you contact the hosting site directly, “if you’re comfortable doing so”.

While this new policy is certainly a step in the right direction, getting Google to remove links from search results is certainly an uphill battle, at least in the United States. In Europe, where the “right to be forgotten” is part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation enacted in 2018, users can request that information that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive » are deleted. Until broader federal privacy protections are put in place, Google is likely to interfere as little as possible with its algorithmic search results.

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