Google now allows people to remove their personal contact information (phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses) from its search results. The Alphabet-owned search giant said Wednesday 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 removal of some specific types of information, but that the new policy represents a broader attempt to help protect users’ personal data. Before the new policy, people could request that more specific information, such as bank account or credit card numbers, be removed.
The change comes amid a rise in online fraud. The Federal Trade Commission reports that consumers lost $5.8 billion to scammers last year, a 70% increase from the previous year. Much of that fraud is perpetrated through online scams, such asas well as through telephone solicitations and identity theft.
“[T]The Internet is always evolving, with information appearing in unexpected places and being used in new ways, so our policies and protections need to evolve as well,” said Michelle Chang, global policy lead for search at Google, in a blog post on the new policy.
Google noted that deleting the information can also protect people from doxxing, which is when personal information, such as emails or addresses, is shared publicly with malicious intent, such as encouraging online bullying.
Here’s how to remove your personal information 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 request the deletion of the most sensitive personal data, 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 addresses of the websites that contain the information you wish to remove from Google search results.
What happens after I ask Google to remove my information?
Google says that you will receive an automatic response confirming that it received your request. The search platform will then review the request and may request further information. For example, if the request is missing a web address, it will ask you to correct it and resubmit the request.
Google will then notify you if it takes action. For example, you could remove site addresses from all search queries, or you could remove them from specific queries that include your name or other personal data.
Will Google approve all requests?
No. Google said it will evaluate all requests to make sure it doesn’t limit broadly useful content, like news articles. It will also examine whether the content is part of the public record, such as government files. In that case, Google says it won’t remove the data from search results either.
If Google deletes my personal data, will it disappear from the Internet?
No. Google warns that removing content from your search result doesn’t mean it’s off the Internet. To ensure all information is removed, you’ll also want to contact any hosting site where your information appears and ask that company to remove it.