On Google Search, Google already has a set of policies that allow people to request the removal of certain content from Search, with a focus on highly personal content that, if public, can cause direct harm to people. But the internet is always evolving – with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways — so their policies and protections need to evolve, too.
That’s why Google is updating its policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search.
Request the removal of personally identifiable information that appears in Google Search
For many years, people have been able to request the removal of certain sensitive, personally identifiable information from Search — for example, in cases of doxxing, or information like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for financial fraud.
Under this new policy expansion, people can now request removals of additional types of information when they find it in Search results, including personal contact information like a phone number, email address, or physical address. The policy also allows for the removal of additional information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials, when it appears in Search results.
The availability of personal contact information online can be jarring — and it can be used in harmful ways, including for unwanted direct contact or even physical harm. And people have given us feedback that they would like the ability to remove this type of information from Search in some cases.
When Google receives removal requests, they will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that they are not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles. They will also evaluate if the content appears as part of the public record on the sites of government or official sources. In such cases, they won’t make removals.
It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you’re comfortable doing so.
In addition to this update, Google recently rolled out a new policy to enable people under the age of 18 (or their parent or guardian) to request the removal of their images from Google Search results.
Maximizing access to information while empowering people to be in control of their sensitive, personally identifiable information is a critical balance to strike. Google believes these updates are an important step to deliver on that goal and give people the tools they need to protect their safety and privacy online.