Google is now letting users request to remove their phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses from the company’s search results.
The new policy is intended to prevent bad actors from using people’s sensitive information in malicious ways, like identity theft or in-person stalking. “The internet is always evolving—with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways—so our policies and protections need to evolve, too,” says Michelle Chang, Google’s global policy lead for search.
You could already request that Google remove certain personally identifiable information from search results. But options were limited to national ID numbers, bank account and credit card numbers, along with images of your personal signature and medical records. (Users can also ask Google to remove non-consensual nudes of themselves and deepfake porn.)
Wednesday’s announcement expands personally identifiable information to include “personal contact info,” including physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. In addition, you can request that Google pull any of your login credentials from its search results.
Using the tool could help users protect themselves from computer hacks and identity theft schemes. You can start a removal request by visiting Google’s support page on the topic, which will ask for the URL that contains the personally identifiable information. Users can submit up to 1,000 URLs on the form.
However, Google won’t necessarily approve every request. “When we receive removal requests, we 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,” the company said. “We’ll 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.”
If Google does grant the request, it can decide to remove the URL containing the sensitive personal information from all search results. In other cases, it will only remove the URL for search queries that include your name. “This can happen when the policy violating information on a page is accompanied by content that is of public interest or has content about other individuals,” Google added.
It’s also important to note that Google can only remove the content from appearing in the company’s search results. The content itself will still exist over the hosting provider. So users should first consider asking the hosting provider to take down the information first.
“If the website owner has removed the information, it will eventually be removed from Google Search as part of our regular updating process,” the company said.