Google now allows users 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 was making the change to protect users from “unwanted direct contact or even physical harm.”
Google said it previously allowed people to request deletion of specific types of information, but the new policy represents a broader attempt to help protect users’ personal data. Prior to the new policy, people could request deletion of more specific information, such as bank account or credit card numbers.
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% jump from the previous year. Much of this fraud is perpetrated through online scams, such asas well as through telephone solicitations and identity theft.
“[T]The internet is constantly changing – with information appearing in unexpected places and being used in new ways – so our policies and protections must evolve as well,” said Michelle Chang, head of global policy for search at Google, in a blog post on the New Politics.
Google noted that deleting 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 to encourage online harassment.
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 deletion of more sensitive personal data, such as social security numbers, bank account and credit card numbers, images of personal signatures, and medical records.
How can 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 websites containing the information you wish to remove from Google’s search results.
What happens after I ask Google to delete my information?
Google indicates that you will receive an automated response confirming that it has received your request. Then the search platform will review the request and may request more information. For example, if the request is missing a web address, it will ask you to correct that and resubmit the request.
Then Google will let you know if it takes action. For example, it may remove site addresses from all search queries, or it may remove them from specific queries that include your name or other personal data.
Will Google green light all requests?
No. Google said it will assess all requests to make sure it doesn’t restrict broadly useful content, such as news articles. It will also examine whether the content is part of the public record, such as government files. In this case, Google indicates that it will not delete the data from the search results either.
If Google deletes my personal data, will it disappear from the Internet?
No. Google warns that removing content from its search results doesn’t mean it’s off the internet. To ensure that all information is erased, you should also contact any hosting site where your information appears and ask that company to delete it.