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Data Security: Google Search beefs up privacy for consumers, families

*The global technology giant days it has ‘significantly updated and improved’ the search tool, enabling consumers to keep track of their personal contact information in Google Search, and having Google ping them when it finds anything so they can have it removed

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Have you ever searched for yourself on the global tech giant Google? Find something you thought was posted with the intent to harm you? A photo of your signature? Your medical record?

ConsumerConnect learnt as the Big Tech moves to address privacy concerns, families no longer have to worry about explicit images either.

Hitherto, there wasn’t much a digital consumer could do.

However, Google is following up on its Results about you tool – the one designed to make it easy for people to request the removal of search results that contain personal phone number, home address or email – and it’s got step number two ready, agency report said.

The technology company has said it “significantly updated and improved” the tool, enabling people to keep track of their personal contact information in Google Search and having Google ping them when it finds anything so they can have it removed.

Danielle Romain, Vice-President of Trust at Google, said: “In the coming days, we’ll be rolling out a new dashboard that will let you know if web results with your contact information are showing up on Search.

“Then, you can quickly request the removal of those results from Google — right in the tool. We’ll also notify you when new results from the web containing your contact info pop up in Search, to give you added peace of mind.”

How to access the tool

Google also discloses the consumers can access this tool in the Google app by clicking on their Google account photo and selecting “Results about you”.

Nonetheless, when the method was tried, it was a dead end, according to ConsumerAffairs.

The better method the company discovered was google/resultsaboutyou.

It is also observed that the experience on mobile devices is different, too. Google provides a quick animation of what that process looks like, report said.

From there, it’s a matter of clicking on the three dots next to the search results you want removed and filling out a simple request form.

Google says it’ll take things from there, but with the tool barely out of the box, there’s no word on how long that will take.

What you can and can’t have removed

Google does have a lot of power, but it does have limitations on what it can and can’t remove from search results that contain personal information, said the company.

It stated the company’s stance is, “the contact information displayed on the result has to be your personal, not professional, information.

“As Google Search seeks to provide users with useful info, it won’t remove info that’s valuable to the public.”

What is Personally Identifiable Information?

Personally identifiable information (PII) that consumers can request to have removed from Google Search results includes:

  • Confidential government identification (ID) numbers, like US Social Security Number
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card numbers
  • Images of handwritten signatures
  • Images of ID docs
  • Highly personal, restricted, and official records, like medical records
  • Personal contact info (physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses)
  • Confidential login credentials

But if you’re listed in an obituary or a directory listing or a post about you from 30 years ago when you streaked the homecoming game, well, sorry, but you might have a problem.

As some understand it, the search results must show your contact info “with an intent to harm you” or must “contain illegal info.”

Google does give that “intent to harm” caveat serious consideration, though.

To request to remove professional information that’s been posted with that intent, all one has to do is use the detailed request form.

Don’t like a social media post you’re in? Not Google’s problem. Nonetheless, if you want anything like that done, the company lists the steps necessary to make that happen, according to report.

To request to remove professional information that’s been posted with the intent to harm you, use the detailed request form.

There is also protection for families

One of the most daunting problems parents have in sitting their child down in front of a computer is all the who-knows-what that the child could encounter. If the child isn’t careful, one mistyped keystroke or domain name version put put all sorts of explicit imagery like violent or adult graphic content right before their very eyes.

It was further learnt that Google is updating that safeguard and those types of graphics will now be blurred by default when it appears in Search results. Of course, if you’re big enough to handle such, you can modify the settings SafeSearch blurring setting or turn it off at any time, unless a parent or someone at school has locked the setting.

Romain said the company is also making it easier to find parental controls directly in Search.

“Just type in a relevant query like ‘google parental controls’ or ‘Google family link’ and you will see a box with information on how to manage your parental controls,” she instructed.

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