Google is now allowing people to remove their personal contact information — phone numbers, physical addresses and email addresses — from its search results. The Alphabet-owned search giant said on Wednesday that it is making the change to protect users from “unwanted direct contact or even physical harm.”
Google said it had previously allowed people to request the removal of some specific types of info, but that the new policy represents a broader attempt to help protect personal data for users. Prior to the new policy, people could ask for more specific information to be removed, such as bank account or credit card numbers.
The change comes amid a surge in online fraud. The Federal Trade Commission reporting that consumers lost $5.8 billion to scammers last year, a jump of 70% from the previous year. Much of that fraud is perpetrated through online scams, such as romance swindles, as well as though telephone solicitations and identity theft.
“[T]he internet is always evolving – with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways — so our policies and protections need to evolve, too,” Michelle Chang, global policy lead for search at Google, said in a blog post about the new policy.
Google noted that removing the information can also protect people from doxxing, which is when personal info like emails or addresses are shared publicly with malicious intent, such as to encourage online harassment.
The company said that it also recently rolled out a new policy that allows teens and children under the age of 18 or their parents or guardians to request that Google remove images of them from its search results. (Parents and children can start a request to remove images at this site.)
Here’s how to get your personal information removed from Google searches.
What will Google remove from its search results?
Google said it will now remove personal contact information from its search results, including your phone number, email address or physical address.
Previously, the company only allowed people to ask for more confidential personal data to be removed, such as Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card numbers, images of personal signatures, and medical records.
How do I ask Google to remove my phone number and other personal information?
Visit this Google site to start the process. The page will ask you to provide the website addresses that include the information that you want removed from Google’s search results.
What happens after I ask Google to remove my info?
Google says that you will get an automated response confirming that it received your request. Next, the search platform will review the request and may ask for more information. For instance, if the request is missing a web address, it will ask you to fix that and resubmit the application.
Next, Google will let you know if it takes action. For instance, it could remove site addresses from all search queries, or it could remove them from specific queries that include your name or other personal data.
Will Google give the go-ahead to all requests?
No. Google said it will evaluate all requests to make sure that it’s not limiting broadly useful content, such as news articles. It will also examine if the content is part of the public record, such as government files. In that case, Google says it also won’t remove the data from search results.
If Google removes my personal data, will it vanish from the internet?
No. Google cautions that removing content from its search result does not mean that it is off the wider internet. To ensure all information is scrubbed, you’ll also want to contact any hosting site where your info appears and ask that company to remove it.