Google tests feature allowing users to scrub personal info from search results

Google is piloting a new privacy feature that enables users to scrub their personal information from web searches. 

The new “remove result button,” which appeared this week for a handful of Google app owners across the US and Europe, enables users to request that pages containing their phone numbers, home addresses, or email addresses be removed from appearing in searches. 

Users may also request the removal of results containing their social security numbers, bank account and credit-card numbers, and medical records. Users also may remove information that is “outdated” or “illegal.”

“It is a way to help you easily control whether your personally identifiable information can be found in Search results,” Google said in a statement.

Google stressed that the tool is designed only to allow users to better control the accessibility of their most personal information, and not to censor more general web content. 

“It’s important to note that 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,” a Google statement said. 

“And of course, removing contact information from Google Search doesn’t remove it from the web, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you’re comfortable doing so.” 

The tool is in trial and has not yet been rolled out across the entire Google platform. The tech giant first announced the trial in May, telling its annual I/O tech conference that it expected to roll out the idea in the coming months. 

Those with access to the new feature can click the three-dot menu in the top right of the google app screen when they come across a result containing their personal information. Clicking the “about this result” option will then reveal a “remove result” button.

Once users submit a removal request, they can monitor its progress as either “in progress” or “approved”. 

Those who don’t have access to the tool yet can use Google’s anti-doxxing, content removal request form, which Google is looking to replace with the new tool.

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