Google says it’s expanding the types of personal information it will remove from search results to cover things like your physical address, phone number and passwords. Before now, the feature mainly covered information that would allow someone to steal your identity or money; Now, you can ask Google to stop showing certain URLs that point to information that could lead someone to your home or give them access to your accounts.
According a blog postGoogle is giving people the new options because “the internet is always evolving” and its search engine providing your phone number or home address can be annoying and dangerous. Here is a list of the types of information that Google can remove, with new additions in bold (h/ta Wayback Machine for make the above list accessible):
- Sensitive government identification (ID) numbers, such as the US social security number, the unique Argentine tax identification number, etc.
- bank account numbers
- credit card numbers
- handwritten signature images
- images of identity documents
- Highly personal, restricted, and official records, such as medical records (used to read “Sensitive Personal Medical Records”)
- Personal contact information (physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses)
- Sensitive login credentials
according to a Support pageGoogle will also remove things like “non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images,” pornographic deepfakes or Photoshops showing your image, or links to sites with “exploitative removal practices.”
Making a request involves giving Google a list of URLs that link to the personal information, as well as the search pages that display those links. After you submit a request, Google will evaluate it. Its FAQ says it tries to “preserve access to information if content is determined to be in the public interest,” as in the case of content that is “newsworthy,” “professionally relevant,” or comes from a government. . If Google decides that the links should be removed, it says that they will not appear for none search query or that they will not appear in searches that include your name.
Google seems to be applying a relatively high bar for what counts as personally identifiable information, which makes it a bit different from the systems you have had to implement in places like the EU to comply with so-called right to be forgotten rules. Those laws allow people to request that links they find unflattering or irrelevant be removed, which isn’t the case here: The rules Google added today only cover links to highly sensitive information.
If you’ve ever looked up someone’s phone number, you may have ended up on a site that exists explicitly to sell people’s information, promising to give it to you if you sign up. When asked if the new policy would apply to these types of sites, Google spokesman Ned Adriance said the edge which would be: “If we can verify that such links contain personally identifiable information, there is no other content on the web page that may be of public interest, and we receive a request to remove those URLs, we will do so, assuming they meet our requirements as outlined.” on the help page, whether or not the information is behind a paywall,” he said in an email.
It is important to note that, as Google points out in your support page and in your blog post, pulling the information out of Google Search doesn’t delete it from the internet. If, for example, you ask Google to remove a forum post with your address, anyone who goes to that forum will be able to see it; the post should not appear if someone searches for “[your name] home address.”
Update April 27, 5:05 pm ET: Google’s aggregate statement on payment information sites.