Change comes as concerns intensify about the connection between online privacy and real-life security. This month, the Kiwi Farms stalker forum was removed after forum members spent years harassing women and those who identify as LGBTQ, often posting their physical addresses and phone numbers. Victims of domestic abuse are also at risk when their personal information is viewed online. Some jurisdictions, including the European Union, have adopted a “right to be forgotten”, which grants individuals the right to request the deletion of their personal information from corporate databases or the Internet, but the United States has not adopted such a law.
In addition to requesting the removal of search results, starting early next year, people can sign up to receive alerts if their personal information appears in new results, Google says.
“While removing these results does not erase your contact information from the web in general, we are doing everything we can to safeguard your information on Google Search,” said Danny Sullivan, Google’s public link for search.
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Here’s how to request removal of a result: In the Google app or Chrome browser, tap or click the three dots next to a search result. A window titled “About this result” should appear. Scroll to the bottom and select the “remove result” button. After you fill out a removal form, your request will take a few days to process, says Google. You can check the status by tapping your profile icon in the top right corner and selecting “results about you”.
Mass data collection by businesses and the government has made it increasingly difficult for harassment or abuse targets to keep their personal information off the Internet, says Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. Even if people remove their personal information from search results, it is likely still available for purchase from data brokers, companies that accumulate and sell huge amounts of personal data.
“This [Google tool] it’s still at an early stage and it remains to be seen how effective it is, “said Caraballo.” Much of this information is still available through data brokers and that kind of freewheeling sharing of people’s personal information in bulk is something that needs to be done. be reviewed by federal regulators. “
Deleting your information from data broker sites takes time to send dozens of data deletion requests or money to pay for a third-party service like DeleteMe to do it for you. So while Google’s new tool won’t solve online stalking, it does offer people a valuable free tool, said Nina Jankowicz, vice president of the Anti-Disinformation Center for Information Resilience.
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Not all anti-harassment advocates celebrate the design of the tool. Coraline Ehmke, an open source software developer, questioned Google’s approach. Why the burden of protecting against online harassment almost always falls on individuals, she asked. How will Google determine the validity of removal requests? And why do users have to be registered in a Google account to use the “results about you” feature? Given Google’s extensive advertising activity, Ehmke said she would think twice before handing over more personal information to submit a takedown request.
“What do we have to accept to give up?” she said. “It feels like privacy after the fact.”
“‘Results about you’ [The feature] uses both technological improvements and human review to prevent abuse of the removal process, “said Google spokesman Ned Adriance. Google will not share information that users have entered in a removal request and will not use it to” personalize your experience, “he noted.
The new tool won’t delete your phone number and address from the internet, but it’s a step in the right direction for privacy, according to Jankowicz.
“In the computing environment we find ourselves in, it is our duty to be a little proactive in managing our online presence,” he said. “It’s a great thing that Google publishes this, especially for people who are frequent victims of abuse, harassment or stalking.”
If the tool hasn’t appeared for you yet or you’re looking to remove other types of information like financial information or medical records, go to this Google module. You can also ask Google to remove explicit fake photos, posted without your consent, or that appear next to your name for no reason.