Google can now remove your personal information from search results
Google users now have the option to submit a request for their personal information to be removed from search results.
Michelle Chang, Google’s Global Policy Lead for Search, went into detail about the new option in a blog post on Google’s product updates site. Here’s what it means for users.
Google’s new steps to protect privacy
As of Google’s April 2022 announcement, all Google users now have the option to submit a request for their personal information to be removed from search results.
This includes personal contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses.
Before the update, users were already able to request more sensitive data to be removed, such as social security numbers or financial information.
Google updated privacy options for users under 18, as well. Minors or their parents or guardians can also request that photos of them be removed from search results in addition to personal information.
How to use Google’s new policy
Google has a page set up in their official help center where users can submit a request for their information to be removed from search results.
In that form, users can specify what info they want to be removed and where they saw it online, such as the page where the info was posted.
Google does clarify in their announcement that a request to remove information does not guarantee it will be removed.
In order to keep people from abusing the option, Google has to thoroughly review each request before taking requested information down from search results.
If the information in question is part of something like a news article or other generally useful content including the public record, Google may reject the request.
It is also important to remember that Google can remove personal information from search results but not from the entire internet.
Individual pages outside of Google may still have users’ personal information on them — those pages just won’t appear in Google search results.
How the new privacy updates impact users
Consumers lost an estimated $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021 alone — a 70% increase from 2020 statistics. Google’s new privacy options may help to protect users from this growing fraud and scamming issue.
If personal information is not so easily accessible online, scammers will have a harder time building contact lists for potential victims.
Scammers tend to target specific types of people if possible, so the more information they have, the more likely they are to try to scam someone.
Many common types of scams rely on the use of personal information.
For example, a scammer who knows that someone lives around an area that recently experienced a natural disaster or other tragedy could abuse that knowledge with a fake charity appeal, while experts warn veterans to beware of mortgage scammers claiming to be from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Other types of scams may target countless different groups, such as elderly individuals or people using dating apps.
Google’s new privacy options can also help protect content creators and social media users from the growing threat of “doxxing” and “swatting.”
These two similar forms of cyberbullying involve posting or sharing a user’s personal information, such as their home address.
Even worse, swatting involves prank-calling emergency services to have a SWAT team sent to a user’s leaked home address.
Even well-known content creators continue to face this issue because their personal information is so easily accessible and circulated online.
Protecting privacy online
Google is taking important steps to improve privacy protection. The April 2022 policy update gives users more control over what personal information is publicly available online.
As more users utilize Google’s new privacy option, online scams and harassment may see a decline in the months and years ahead.
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