Google is finally making it easier for you to make sure your personal information doesn't show up in online search results – and all it took was hundreds of thousands of requests over nearly a decade.
The Alphabet-owned internet search giant recently rolled out new policies and tools that allow users to quickly and easily request the removal of personal data – like your phone number, email address, or even a physical address – from search results. Previously, users had to show evidence of potential harm, such as doxxing or identity theft, to get Google to remove their personal information from search results, the company noted in an April blog post.
Now, you get your information removed from those results for any reason – and with just the click of a button.
"For many people, a key element of feeling safer and more private online is having greater control over where their sensitive, personally-identifiable information can be found," Danielle Romain, Google's vice president of trust, wrote in a separate blog post on Wednesday.
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Crucially, not every request is guaranteed approval: The company may not remove your personal data from its search results if the information is newsworthy – for instance, if it appears in a relevant news article – or if it's included on a government website or another official source, according to Google.
"It's important to note that when we receive removal requests, we will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that we're not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles," the company notes in Wednesday's blog post.
Currently, anyone can fill out an online form to submit a removal request. On Wednesday, the company announced a new upcoming tool, where users who find their personal information in search results will be able to request the removal of that data with just a few clicks. The company said the tool will be available "in the coming months."
The company has said it wants to process all removal requests quickly, and that decisions will be made through a combination of algorithmic tools and human monitoring of the requests.
On the online form, you can click the option to "remove select personally identifiable information (PII) or doxxing content from Google Search." From there, you'll answer a series of questions about the type of personal information showing up in search results, URLs of the websites displaying the information, search terms used to turn up those results in Google searches and even screenshots of the websites and search results.
The form also asks if your personal information is being shared "with doxxing intent," if it includes explicit content or if it needs to be removed for legal reasons.
Of course, these new policies and tools only relate to personal information showing up in Google's search results. Google cannot remove your personal data from the internet entirely, and the company recommends that you contact websites hosting your information directly to request its removal from those sites "if you're comfortable doing so."
The move has potentially been in the works for almost a decade: In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that search engines like Google needed to allow European internet users to request the removal of their personal information for their "right to be forgotten." Over the next four years, Google said, it received more than 650,000 data removal requests.
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