Google adds ways to keep personal info private from searches

People can request removal of phone numbers, physical addresses

Google said Friday that it expanded options for keeping personal information private from online searches

The search giant, owned by Alphabet, said people could request that types of content, including personal contact information, be removed from search results. 


"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," Google said in a blog post. "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."

"Google may remove personally identifiable information (PII) that has potential to create significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, harmful direct contact, or other specific harms. This includes doxxing, which is when your contact info is shared in a malicious way," Google explained in response to a query.

To remove personally identifiable information, the company said the request must be related to certain types of information, including credit card numbers, bank account numbers, images of handwritten signatures, images of identification documents, physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, confidential login credentials, confidential government identification numbers and highly personal, restricted or official records.

To act against doxxing content, the request must show that the contact information is present and/or that there is the presence of explicit or implicit threats or explicit or implicit calls to action for others to harm or harass.

As a result of the evaluation, Google wrote that it may remove the provided URL or URLs for all queries, remove the URL or URLs for only queries including their name, or in some circumstances deny the request outright.


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Any authorized representative submitting a request to remove links to content on a person's behalf will need to explain how they have the authority to do so.

After submitting a request, Google will send an automated email confirmation and review the request. 


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

It may ask for more information and will notify if a request has been denied or led to action.

The company wrote Wednesday that open access to information is vital, "but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private."

"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," Google said.


Previously, Google Search had permitted people to request that highly personal content that could cause direct harm be removed, including information removed due to doxxing and personal details that could be used for fraud.

"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," it said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.