Google making personal info private in searches

Google can still deny some requests to remove information

Google users now have more ways to protect themselves online. 

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Users can now send in requests to remove private content, including phone numbers, email and physical addresses from search results. The move is part of Google's ongoing effort to cut down on identify theft and malicious behavior online. 

"Google may remove personally identifiable information that has potential to create significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, harmful direct contact or other specific harms," the company said in a note online. 

Google Search had already allowed users to request the removal of highly personal content that could cause direct harm. This includes information like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for fraud.

"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," Google Global Policy Lead for Search Michelle Chang said in a blog post. 

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A woman walks past the logo for Google at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai Nov. 5, 2018.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan / AP Newsroom)

Chang noted that open access to information is a "key goal of Search." However, "so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private," Chang said. 

"When you’re using the internet, it’s important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found," Chang added.

Google noted, though, that not all requests will be granted. It will evaluate each request based off certain criteria, including if it's content for public interest. 

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Content considered to be of public interest includes content on or from the government and other official sources, newsworthy content or professionally relevant content. 

Additionally, removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, the company warned. As a result, Google says users may want to contact hosting sites directly. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.