Google says it’s expanding the types of personal information it will remove from search results to cover things like your physical address, phone number and passwords. Previously, the feature mainly covered information that allowed someone to steal your identity or money. Now you can ask Google to stop showing certain URLs pointing to information that could lead someone to your home or give them access to your accounts.
According to a blog post, Google is giving people new options because “the Internet is constantly changing” and its search engine giving out your phone number or home address can be both shocking and dangerous. Here’s a list of the types of information Google can remove, with the new additions in bold (h/t to the Wayback Machine to make the old list accessible):
- Confidential government identification (ID) numbers such as US social security number, Argentine unique tax identification number, etc.
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Images of handwritten signatures
- Images of identity documents
- Highly personal, restricted, and official records, such as medical records (used to read “Confidential Personal Medical Records”)
- Personal contact details (physical addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses)
- Confidential login credentials
According to a support page, Google will also remove items such as “non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images”, pornographic deepfakes or photoshopping of you, or links to sites offering “abusive removal practices”.
Making a request involves giving Google a list of URLs that link to personal information, as well as the search pages that bring up those links. After submitting a request, Google will evaluate it. Its FAQ states that it tries to “preserve access to information if the content is deemed to be of public interest”, as in the case of content that is “newsworthy”, “relevant for professionals” or from a government. If Google decides the links should be removed, it says they won’t show up for any search query or will not be displayed for searches that include your name.
Google seems to set a relatively high bar for what counts as personally identifiable information, making it a little different from the systems it’s had to implement in places like the EU to comply with so-called rules. of the right to be forgotten. These laws allow people to request that links they deem unflattering or irrelevant be removed, which is not the case here – the rules added by Google today only cover links to very sensitive information .
It’s also unclear whether Google will take down sites that exist explicitly to sell user information. If you’ve ever looked up someone’s phone number, you might have ended up on one of these services, promising to give it to you if you sign up. We asked Google about this and will let you know if we have a response.
It’s important to note that, as Google notes on its support page and blog post, removing information from Google Search does not remove it from the Internet. If, for example, you ask Google to remove a forum post containing your address, anyone who visits that forum will be able to see it; the message should just not appear if someone searches “[your name] Home Address.”