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How to scrub your phone number and other personal info from Google

KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles logo KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles 4/29/2022 Lauren Barry
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Google announced Thursday that it is updating its policies for requesting removals from its search engine so people can now have their personal contact information – such as phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses – scrubbed from search results.

Under the new policy, people may also have additional information removed if it could pose a risk for identity theft, including confidential log-in credentials.

According to Statista, Google is the most frequently used search engine worldwide. HubSpot estimates that approximately 2 trillion searches are processed by the site annually.

Already, people have been able to request the removal of certain sensitive, personally identifiable information from search Google results, such as bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for financial fraud.

Google also allowed doxxing victims to have their information removed from search, said the company. The University of California, Berkeley, described doxxing as “collection of a user’s private information, across multiple platforms (including social media) by an unauthorized individual, who then publishes the information in an attempt to shame or embarrass the user.”

“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,” said Michelle Chang, Google’s Global Policy Lead for Search, in a blog post Thursday. “And people have given us feedback that they would like the ability to remove this type of information from Search in some cases.”

People interested in removing their information from Google search can submit a removal request form.

Once the form is submitted, requesters will get an automated email confirmation. In some cases, the company will reach out for further information.

Chang said Google “will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that we're not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles,” when it receives removal requests. Google will also “evaluate if the content appears as part of the public record on the sites of government or official sources. In such cases, we won’t make removals.”

Requests for removal will be considered if they fall under the following categories: confidential government identification (ID) numbers like U.S. Social Security Number; bank account numbers; credit card numbers images of handwritten signatures; images of ID docs; highly personal, restricted, and official records, like medical records; personal contact info (physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses) and confidential login credentials.

Additionally, Google recently “rolled out a new policy to enable people under the age of 18 (or their parent or guardian) to request the removal of their images from Google Search results.”

“If the submitted URLs are found to be within the scope of our policy, either the URLs will be removed for all queries or the URLs will be removed only from search results in which the query includes the complainant’s name, or other provided identifiers, such as aliases,” said Chang. “If the request doesn’t meet the requirements for removal, we’ll also include a brief explanation.”

Denied requests can be resubmitted with further information.

“It’s important to remember that removing content from Google Search won’t remove it from the internet, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you're comfortable doing so,” Chang added.

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