Erasing yourself from the internet is not an easy feat, but a new policy update from Google makes it slightly easier to remove personally identifiable information that appears in searches.
In a new blog post, Google explains that people can now request the removal of phone numbers, email addresses, and physical home addresses from appearing in search results.
"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," Michelle Chang, Google's Global Policy Lead for Search, writes in the post.
“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. That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search,” Chang adds.
To bar personal information from appearing in Google searches, people simply have to file a removal request. The request will be reviewed by investigators who will assess whether the information is in the public interest, such as newsworthy or official content, after which Google will send an email explaining whether the request has been denied or accepted.
If the request is unsuccessful, Google will explain why it doesn't meet the requirements for removal. It's always possible to resubmit your request along with additional materials to support your case.
One of the chief aims of the policy change is to protect people from doxxing, the act of maliciously revealing personal information about someone online, such as their real name, home address, workplace, phone number, etc. The latest update builds on Google's previous policy that allowed people to request the removal of information such as credit card numbers, handwritten signatures, medical records, or ID documents that could be used for financial fraud or identity theft.
Bear in mind, however, that a removal request will not totally eradicate the information from the internet, it just means that it won’t appear in Google searches. To achieve this, Google says you’ll usually need to contact the webmaster, the person who owns the website