Over the years, it has become increasingly challenging to keep personal information off the web — but thanks to Google's updated policies, you're now able to take more control of your online presence in search.
Google published a blog post on Wednesday, April 27, by Google Global Policy Lead for Search, Michelle Chang, explaining how and why a policy change expansion came about, plus what it means for users.
The blog post mentions that users can now request personal information — such as phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses — to be removed from search. The policy expansion also enables people under the age of 18, or their parent or guardian, to request the removal of their images from Google Search results.
But according to Google, being able to request the removal of personal information from the web for safety purposes isn't a new feature.
For many years, people have been able to request the removal of certain sensitive, personally identifiable information from Search, per the blog post. This applies to cases of doxxing — when personal info, like addresses, are shared publicly with malicious intent — or for information like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for financial fraud.
"The availability of personal contact information online can be jarring — and it can be used in harmful ways, including for unwanted direct contact or even physical harm. And people have given us feedback that they would like the ability to remove this type of information from Search in some cases," the blog post reads.
Now, Google is making it possible for you to protect your personal information further by allowing removal requests for additional types of information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials, when it appears in search results.
Read on to learn how to take advantage of this new policy expansion from Google.
How can I remove my phone number and other personal information from Google Search?
The process, overall, is fairly simple and straightforward. You can visit this site to start.
You'll come to a page where, after clicking on the first pencil icon on the right, it will first ask you whether you want to a.) Remove information you see in Google Search or b.) Prevent information from showing in Google Search. Select whichever applies to you.
From there, confirm the details of where you want the information to be removed from, or where you would like to prevent the information from going.
Google then provides step-by-step instructions on how to proceed, depending on what your removal requests and preferences are.
Once your request is submitted, you'll get an automated email confirming your request.
Please note that Google may follow up asking for additional information: for example, a web address if there's one missing from the original request submission.
When all of the information is submitted and the request has been processed, Google will notify you of any action taken.
Will Google guarantee the removal of my personal information?
While your ask might be granted with no issues, there's of course a possibility Google will deny the request.
According to the blog post, when Google receives removal requests, they will "evaluate all content on the web page" to ensure that they're not "limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles."
Additionally, if the content appears as a public record on the sites of government or official sources, they won't proceed with the removal.
Google stresses that it’s "important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet" — which is why some may wish to contact a site that houses any personal information directly.
Ultimately, this policy expansion was made to adapt to ever-evolving internet updates and protect Google users personal safety.
"We believe these updates are an important step to deliver on that goal and give people the tools they need to protect their safety and privacy online."