After the policy allowing anyone under the age of 18 (or upon the request of guardians or parents) to request the removal of their pictures on Search results, Google is refining its set of policies again. On Wednesday, the company announced that it will now expand the types of information it will permit to be removed on Search. The new update will focus on personal contact information, such as physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, confidential log-in credentials, and details that can lead to identity theft.
Search has always had effective policies for removing specific content, specifically for highly personal ones. However, given that the “internet is always evolving,” the company’s approach continuously needs to improve to stop bits of sensitive information from appearing anywhere on the web unexpectedly. If not controlled, the discovery of such information can lead to a variety of problems, from financial fraud to doxxing and even physical harm to a person.
“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,” Michelle Chang, Global Policy Lead for Search at Google, says in the announcement. “That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search … 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.”
Despite the new update, Google promises to make evaluations first to ensure that it is “not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful.” The company will also take into account if the content is part of public records managed by government or official sources or news outlets. In the said situations, the removal request will not be executed.
Lastly, Google encouraged all individuals who would like to make future demands to communicate with the sites themselves that contain the information since the policy doesn’t mean wiping it out completely from the internet.