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Google Beefs Up Tool for Requesting Removal of Personal Info

Data would be gone from searches but not originating websites

spinner image a search bar superimposed over hands on a keyboard

What might be revealed on the internet about anyone is staggering — and downright scary at times.

Enter your name in Google to see what’s known about you. Your phone numbers may show up among the search results, along with your email and street addresses, and possibly other information you use to log in to websites.

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“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,” Michelle Chang, Google’s global policy lead for search, blogged in April 2022

That’s when Google, by far the biggest search engine in the world, announced that you can ask to have your phone numbers and addresses removed from search results. This service was in addition to policies already in place that enabled you to request the removal of bank accounts, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and even images of your signature — the kind of stuff that could help a crook or creep steal your identity, commit financial fraud or expose your private data online through what’s known as doxxing.

But Google didn’t make it simple to request removal of that information, which involved navigating a Google support page and telling the company why it should grant your request. Among the steps you needed to take: directing Google to the information, search results or web page you wanted removed and letting the company know whether you contacted the website owner.

A promise of streamlining search removal

Google subsequently rolled out a “Results about you” tool to streamline the request process, which you can access either in the Google app for Android or Apple products or on a desktop or mobile browser.

Now Google is bolstering the tool with a soon-to-arrive dashboard that will give users even more control inside Results about you.

“You’ll be able to learn more about any [search] results our systems find, directly request their removal via the dashboard itself, and track the status of your requests,” Google product manager Angel Rodriguez says. “We’ll also notify you when any new results containing your personal contact information pop up in search, giving you added peace of mind.”

The tool, still in beta, will initially be available only in English in the United States, though Google plans to bring it to other countries and languages soon.

How to get started

Once it launches, you can access the tool in the Google app on your phone by clicking on your account picture and tapping Results about you. From a web browser, enter You’ll have to be logged into your Google account.

From there, follow these steps:

1. Select Get started.

2. Enter your name and the contact info that you want to find in search results.

3. Choose how you would like to be notified if Google finds results with your contact info.

4. To view your results, from the Results about you page, go to the Results to review tab.

5. To remove more than one result, select the checkbox next to each result and Request to remove. To remove a single result, select the result to expand and choose Request to remove.

Worth noting: You can still click the three vertical dots next to Google search results to summon the About this result panel, which Google introduced in February 2021. The feature, also still in beta, tells you more about the source of a given search result, whether the connection to the site is secure and more.

The information is still out there

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Keep in mind that your removal request is tied to search results. Removing your email address and phone number doesn’t remove them from the website hosting the information.

To do that, you would have to ask the site’s owner to remove the information. If they agree, the information eventually will be exorcised from the specific Google search result as well.

When Google first introduced the Results about you tool, you weren’t able to make bulk requests to have Google remove your phone numbers or addresses across all search results. Removal requests had to be made on a page-by-page basis. You can now handle your requests through the dashboard.

You can receive email notifications of status updates and about your information popping up elsewhere. According to Rodriguez, Google employs artificial intelligence to find results that contain personal information and to help people take quick actions to remove those results from Google search.

If you decide to otherwise keep your information in search results, you’ll be able to click a separate button called Mark as Reviewed, “so that you can have awareness of what’s [out] there about you and you can find it in one place,” Rodriguez says.

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During the initial setup, Google will also let you know if it doesn’t find any personal information about you in search.

Google can deny your request

Google has a standard process for determining whether to comply with your request. It checks whether the information you’re asking to remove resides on the host page. It makes sure you’re the person whose information would be removed or you have a close relationship to the person.

And Google may turn down your request if it determines that leaving the information intact is in the “public interest,” perhaps because of its newsworthiness or because it’s part of a public record on a government site. You can’t ask Google to remove content just because you don’t like what it says, such as a post from someone who calls you a lousy plumber.

“We can’t assess, ‘Was this true or not true?’ and make those kind of judgments,” says Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Google Search. “By default, we try to show stuff that we think is generally reliable or useful information.”

Google will reach a decision on your removal request in a week or so, he says. If you’re denied, Google will provide an explanation.

Even if Google agrees to remove your information from its search results, the material may show up in other search engines’ results, on social media or on websites.

Competitor Microsoft Bing, a distant second to Google, has an online Report a Concern to Bing page, where you can request the removal of certain information from its search engine, though it’s not a seamless process. Click the Feedback link at the bottom of the page, then click the Report a Concern link in the window that appears. Select your concern from the checklist and follow further instructions for reporting your particular issue.

You can pay others to remove your information

For a fee, companies including DeleteMe, Kanary and OneRep will wipe out some of your personal data floating across cyberspace.

What Google is doing “is one important step, hopefully of many, that’s going to give consumers and citizens more rights and more controls over their data that’s stored at third parties,” says Rob Shavell, chief executive of DeleteMe. He says 11 percent of searches are related to people.

DeleteMe compiles a list of third-party “data brokers” that peddle all sorts of personal information about you, including the make and model of your car, photos of your home and its worth, your children’s ages, mother’s maiden name, political affiliation and more.

You can visit the DeleteMe site to access free guides to help you request the removal of information on your own. Since the process is lengthy and painstaking, many people instead pay $129 a year to let DeleteMe handle the job on their behalf. Kanary charges $144 a year for similar services and OneRep charges about $100.

“Can we delete you from the internet? Absolutely not,” Shavell says. “It is an ongoing service because your information inevitably comes back when you do things like sign up or for an application or register for something and you don’t carefully read where they’re sharing that data.”

This story, originally published May 11, 2022, has been updated to reflect upgrades to Google's search removal tool.

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