Google may now remove search results that annoy you

Google says it’s extending the types of personal information it wants to remove from search results to cover things like your physical address, phone number, and passwords. Before now, the feature mostly covered information that would let someone steal your identity or money – now you can ask Google to stop showing certain URLs that point to information that could lead someone to your house or give them access to your accounts.

According to a blog post, Google can provide people with the new opportunities because “the Internet is always evolving”, and its search engine providing your phone number or home address can be both jarring and dangerous. Here’s a list of what kind of information Google can remove, with the new bold additions (h / t to Wayback Machine to make the old list available):

  • Confidential Government Identification Numbers (IDs) such as US Social Security Number, Argentine Single Tax Identification Number, etc.
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card numbers
  • Pictures of handwritten signatures
  • Pictures of ID documents
  • Highly personal, restricted and official medical records, such as medical records (used to read “Confidential personal medical records”)
  • Personal contact information (physical addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses)
  • Confidential login information

According to a support site, Google will also remove things like “explicit or intimate personal images without consent”, pornographic deepfakes or Photoshops showing your similarity, or links to sites with “exploitative removal practices”.

Making a request involves providing Google with a list of URLs that link to the personal information as well as the search pages that display those links. Once you submit a request, Google will evaluate it. Its FAQ says it seeks to “maintain access to information if the content is determined to be in the public interest”, as in the case of content that is “newsworthy”, “professionally relevant”, or that came from a government. If Google decides that the links should be removed, it says that they do not show up either anyone search query or they do not appear for searches containing your name.

Google seems to be putting a relatively high bar on what counts as personally identifiable information, which makes it a bit different from the systems it has had to implement in places like the EU to comply with the so-called right to be-forgotten rules. These laws allow people to request that links they deem unflattering or irrelevant be removed, which is not the case here – the rules Google added today only cover links to highly sensitive information.

If you’ve ever searched for a person’s phone number, you may have ended up on a site that explicitly exists to sell people’s information and promise to give it to you if you subscribe. When asked if the new policy would apply to these types of sites, Google spokesman Ned Adriance said The edge that it would: “If we can confirm that such links contain personally identifiable information that is not other content on the Website that may be of public interest and we receive a request to remove those URLs, we will do so. , provided that they meet our requirements described on the help page – whether the information is behind a payment wall or not, ”he said in an email.

This page was easily accessible from a Google link and promises to provide my phone number and address. If it meets Google’s requirements, it counts.

Importantly, as Google notes on its support page and in its blog post, getting the information removed from Google Search does not delete from the Internet. For example, if you ask Google to remove a forum post with your address in it, everyone who goes to that forum will be able to see it; the post should just not show up if someone is searching “[your name] home address.”

Update April 27 at 17:05 ET: Added statement from Google on paid wall info pages.