Google recently started allowing users to remove their personal information from search results, including their phone number, email, and home address. On Wednesday, the company announced at its annual I/O developer conference that it’s launching a tool to further streamline the process.
“People are worried about threats, they’re worried about things like identity theft, or they’re just generally not comfortable with their personal contact information being out there,” says Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for Search. “The internet has given us easy access to all sorts of information it used to be hard to get. But that’s also caused people to have concerns about privacy and how they manage their information online. This is us trying to give people some sense of having more control over that.”
The new tool will become available in the coming months, and users will be able to quickly request the removal of results. For now, here’s how to request your personal information be removed, through Google’s support page.
Kinds of information you can remove from Google
While Google previously allowed users to remove personally identifiable information that could lead to issues like doxxing or financial fraud, the company updated its policy in April to include contact information and information that could put users at risk for identity theft. To get Google to take action under the new rules, the info that appears in Search needs to fit into one of the following categories:
- Contact information
- Government-issued ID numbers like a U.S. Social Security Number
- Bank account or credit card numbers
- Images of a handwritten signature or ID documents
- Private medical records
- Confidential log-in credentials.
How to submit a removal request to Google
To submit a removal request for this kind of information ahead of the tool’s launch, head to Google’s search results removal form and select “Remove information you see in Google Search” under the “What do you want to do?” tab. Then hit “In Google’s search results and on a website” under “The information I want removed is” and “No, I prefer not to” under “Have you contacted the site’s website owner?”
The form will then walk you through the process of inputting the information that Google needs to determine whether the reported results fall under the umbrella of its removal policies. It asks for the URLs of the websites displaying your personal data as well as the URL of the Google search that brought up those sites. It also recommends including screenshots. As a result, these sites could be removed from all searches on Google, only searches involving your name, or, if your request is denied, neither.
As Google notes on its removal request support page, the company doesn’t have the power to take down the website where the information actually lives. Since Google Search shows information gathered from websites across the internet, any content Google scrubs from its results can still exist online. “This means someone might still find the content on the page that hosts it, through social media, on other search engines, or other ways,” the page reads.
If that’s the case, Google recommends that you contact the offending site and ask it to remove the content itself.