Google to alert people when they appear in search results – and make it easier to remove personal information

Andrew Griffin
Friday 04 August 2023 18:18 BST
(Getty Images)

Google will now alert people when their personal information appears online – and make it easier to get it removed.

The new tools are aimed at giving people more control over the information and images of them that appear online, the company said.

New rules on personal explicit images mean that users will be able to request that explicit images of themselves are taken down from search results. That extends to situations where someone has willingly uploaded explicit content themselves and then later wants it to be removed from search results.

The same policy applies to personal information generally. That too will not only appear in Google’s tools but will also be easier to have removed.

Google has long had policies that are intended to help people have non-consensual explicit imagery removed from search results. But the changes mean that people can have that content removed even when it was uploaded consensually at the time.

In its update, Google stressed that it was only able to remove content from Google search, and that doing so would not affect its availability on other websites or search engines. But removing any unwanted images from search results should make them much more difficult to find.

The new features are part of an expansion of Google’s “Results about you” tool, which it first made available last year. When it was launched, it was intended to make it easier for people to request the removal of search results that contain personal information, such as phone numbers or home addresses.

Now it has been improved so that it is proactive in finding search results that include that information. Users will be able to access the dashboard and see any web results that include that contact information.

Users will then be able to access an improved form to ask to have those taken down.

The dashboard is available only in the US and in English for now. Google said it was “working to bring it to new languages and locations soon”.

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