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What just happened? You can find out a lot about a person just by Googling their name, but Google is now letting people remove more of their personal information from these results that could pose a danger, including physical addresses, phone numbers, and passwords.
Google has long allowed people to request certain sensitive, personally identifiable content be removed from its search results, such as confidential government identification, images of handwritten signatures, and bank account/credit card details.
Now, Google has expanded its list to include images of ID docs, confidential login credentials, and personal contact info (physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses). Additionally, Google will remove non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images, Deepfakes, images of minors, and doxxing content, which requires explicit or implicit threats or explicit or implicit calls to action for others to harm or harass.
"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. "They are increasingly unwilling to tolerate this content online."
Asking Google to remove something from its search results involves sending in URLs that include your personal information and search pages that surface the links. The company will then decide if it warrants removal from the search results but warns that it will try to preserve anything newsworthy, professionally relevant, from the government (part of the public record), or is determined to be in the public interest.
Google does remind people that the information is only being removed from its search results, not from the sites hosting it, and can be surfaced through other search engines.
Google approves only about 13% of the tens of thousands of removal requests it receives each year, though it expects the removal rate to increase in light of the expanded options.