Google has introduced a new feature that allows individuals to request the removal of their personal information from its search results. This initiative aims to give people more control over their online presence and protect their sensitive, personally identifiable information.

With the internet’s increasing accessibility, personal privacy has become a challenge, as anyone can easily find details like home addresses, phone numbers, emails, and family member names — Such readily available information makes individuals vulnerable to fraud, stalking, and other potential dangers. Moreover, much of this personal data is posted online without the individual’s consent.

Google’s decision to enable personal information removal from its Search feature is a step towards addressing these concerns. This change, announced on April 27, allows individuals to request the removal of their personal information, including data that could be used for financial fraud (e.g., login credentials or account numbers).

Michelle Chang, Google’s Global Policy Lead for Search, emphasized the importance of empowering people to protect their online privacy. While the new policy enhances control over personal information in Google Search, Chang also noted that it doesn’t remove the information from the internet entirely. To completely eliminate personal data, individuals may need to contact the hosting site directly.

How do I request the removal?

To request personal information removal, users can visit the topic’s support page, click the “Start removal request” link, and follow the prompts. They can specify the information they want to remove and provide relevant search terms, like their full name, maiden name, or nickname. After submitting the request, users will receive a confirmation email from Google, although the removal process duration remains unclear.

This policy change comes as online fraud is on the rise, with the Federal Trade Commission reporting $5.8 billion in consumer losses to scammers in 2021, a 70% increase from the previous year. To combat fraud, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell plans to introduce legislation that grants the Federal Trade Commission more authority to sue deceptive companies and scammers, aiming to protect consumers and small businesses from online scams, identity theft, and fraudulent solicitations.

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