Google updates policy for deleting personal data in search

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It now also applies to contact information such as addresses and telephone numbers. Google wants to better protect users from identity theft.

Google has expanded the ability to remove personal information from Google search results. Deletion requests can now also be made for personal contact information such as telephone numbers, e-mail addresses or addresses.

Previously, users could request removal of certain sensitive information from search, such as doxxing content (when someone’s contact information is maliciously shared) or information like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for financial fraud. As part of the enhanced policy, this is now also possible for information that could pose a risk for identity theft – like sensitive sign-in data – when it appears in search results.

“The availability of personal contact information online can be frightening – and it can be used in harmful ways, including for unwanted direct contact or even physical harm. Users have told us that in some cases they would like to remove this type of information from searches,” writes Michelle Chang, Google’s global search policy director, in a blog post.

Chang said when a request to be removed from Google Search is made, Google evaluates the entire content of the webpage. Following the evaluation, Google may remove the specified URL from all searches or remove search results where the query contains a person’s name or other specified identifier. In special cases it is also possible to reject the request.

“We will evaluate all content on the site to ensure we are not restricting the availability of other information that is generally useful, such as in news articles,” Chang said. Google will also not intervene in public directories, for example on government websites.

Google also points out that data will only be removed from search, but not from the Internet. It may be necessary to contact the provider of the website in order to have content deleted.

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