April 27th, 2022
Privacy and online safety go hand in hand. And when you’re using the internet, it’s important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found.
On Google Search, we already have a set of policies that allow people to request the removal of certain content from Search, with a focus on highly personal content that, if public, can cause direct harm to people. But the internet is always evolving – with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways — so our policies and protections need to evolve, too.
Open access to information is a key goal of Search, but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private. That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search.
Request the removal of personally identifiable information that appears in Google Search
For many years, people have been able to request the removal of certain sensitive, personally identifiable information from Search — for example, in cases of doxxing, or information like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for financial fraud.
Under this new policy expansion, people can now request removals of additional types of information when they find it in Search results, including personal contact information like a phone number, email address, or physical address. The policy also allows for the removal of additional information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials, when it appears in Search results.
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.
When we receive removal requests, we will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that we’re not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles. We’ll also evaluate if the content appears as part of the public record on the sites of government or official sources. In such cases, we won’t make removals.
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.
We’re always looking for new ways to ensure our policies and built-in safeguards reflect peoples’ evolving needs and are easy to use. For example, in addition to this update, we recently rolled out a new policy to enable people under the age of 18 (or their parent or guardian) to request the removal of their images from Google Search results.
Maximizing access to information while empowering people to be in control of their sensitive, personally identifiable information is a critical balance to strike. 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.
To learn more about how you can make use of this expanded policy, visit our help page.