Google makes it easier to remove personal info from search resultsVish Gainon April 28, 2022 at 09:45 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Google, by far the world’s most popular search engine, is now taking privacy a little more seriously with an expanded list of personal info details that can be removed upon request from search results, such as phone numbers and addresses.

Users have long been able to flag confidential personal info showing up on Google search results, such as government ID, bank account and credit card info, and even info released in a doxing campaign.

But now, the removal request service has been extended to personal contact info such as physical addresses, phone number and email addresses, as well as login credentials.

The move marks a shift in Google’s privacy policy, which until now was more lax on contact info under the pretext of public ease of access to information.

Contact info that is deemed to be of public interest, however, such as an organisation or politician’s office phone number, will continue to be shown on search results.

Additionally, Google has placed a higher bar for those whishing to have info removed as part of a doxing campaign. Applicants must be able to prove that not only has their contact info been made public, but there is also a threat of danger to individuals concerned.

“Research has told us there’s a larger amount of personally identifiable information that users consider as sensitive,” Michelle Chang, global policy lead for Google search, told Reuters in an exclusive interview. “They are increasingly unwilling to tolerate this content online.”

This comes on the foot of tens of thousands of removal requests received by Google in recent year, of which Chang said only around 13pc were accepted – with the approval rate expected to grow under the latest expansion.

Any info removed by Google, however, might still be accessible through other search engines.

Google has been doubling down on its privacy measures in recent times. Last year, parent company Alphabet announced a set of sweeping changes to make Search, YouTube and other apps safer for kids, including removing photos on search results of under-18s upon request.

Earlier this week, Google also launched a new data safety section for all apps on its Play store, like Apple’s labels, requiring developers to detail how user data info will be used before any app is downloaded. This followed Google’s February changes to limit ad tracking on Android.

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