What you need to know
- Google now lets you remove personal contact info from Search results that could be used to dox private citizens.
- You can remove your email, address, and phone number if you can prove "Explicit or implicit threats" based on this information being public.
- Publicly posted log-in credentials are now also removable.
- It already allowed you to remove Search results for SSNs, financial information, and photos of documents.
- Removing these from Google Search does not remove them from the site itself.
Google used to have a fairly rigid standard for what private citizens could object to in its Search results: credit card numbers, bank account IDs, or photos of your handwritten signatures, for example. Now, it has expanded its list of objectionable personal content so you can better protect yourself from 21st-century threats.
Michelle Chang, Global Policy Lead for Search, detailed in The Keyword how you can now request Google remove "personal contact information like a phone number, email address, or physical address."
The blog post explains that it won't remove publicly available or newsworthy information, particularly anything available from government sites or "official sources." And a linked Google Support page indicates that it will only remove contact info due to "explicit or implicit threats" or "explicit or implicit calls to action for others to harm or harass."
Assuming you have evidence a person posted your contact info in order to dox you, or encourage others to harm you, Google should now remove info it previously considered not important enough to remove.
Chang also noted that you can object to "confidential log-in credentials" found in Google Search results. Ideally, you'll use a password manager that prevents people gaining access to all your accounts at once; but even a single public password can wreak havoc on your life if left unchecked.
If you spot your email, phone number, personal address, or log-in credentials in Search results, you can check out Google's official removal request form at that link and start the process of protecting yourself.
Google has made solid strides on making its Search results safer in recent months. Last October, it ensured you could remove photos of minors from Google Search, for instance.
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.