Contact information such as your phone number, email address, or home address may now be deleted from Google search results.
Previously, individuals could erase connections to contact information that had been maliciously publicized – a practice known as “doxxing.”
People can now request removal if it poses other dangers, such as “damaging direct touch.”
Google cautions that the information will remain available online.
“It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly if you’re comfortable doing so,” Michelle Chang, Google’s global policy lead for search wrote, announcing the change.
However, websites, particularly those holding stolen material, may fail to react to removal requests. Even if the individual hosting the data agrees to remove it, personal information may still be found on archived copies of web sites.
The data may also be stored on websites that are not intended to show in Google search results, but whose location is well known to thieves.
Google currently allows users to request that some sorts of sensitive material be deleted; for example, under-18s can request that images of themselves be removed from Google’s image search results.
It also already allows users to erase specific medical and financial data from search results, as well as contact information revealed through “doxxing” accompanied by “explicit or implied threats.”
The publishing of private information about someone online, generally with malevolent intent, is referred to as ‘doxing.’
The latest modification, however, allows for the removal of personal contact information if it “has the potential to generate significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, dangerous direct contact, or other specified problems.”
It is also expanding the list of information that can be deleted to include private login credentials such as passwords and usernames.
Google says that when it receives a request it may:
- Remove the link where the information may be found for all searches
- Remove link where the information may be found, but only for searches that include your name
But it also warns that in some circumstances it may deny the request.
According to Michelle Chang, Google will “ensure that we are not reducing the availability of other information that is generally helpful, such as in news articles.”
She continued, saying: “We’ll also look to see if the material is part of the public record on government or official source websites. We will not perform deletions in such instances.”