Google offers to alert netizens when their personal info shows up in Search

I Have Been Pw, er, Indexed

Google is carrying out its corporate mission statement – to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful – by offering to hide certain information in its search results.

In the interest of privacy – something of an issue at the Mountain View, California-based ad giant – the Chocolate Factory has upgraded its Results About You tool, introduced last year as a way to help people remove personally identifiable information from Google Search results.

Essentially, you can get alerted when your personal contact information turns up in search results, and tell Google to not show that.

"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," said Danielle Romain, VP of trust, in an announcement this week.

"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."

Results About You provides a way for search users to ask Google not to show links to websites that contain their names, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses. It does nothing to remove the information from the websites that actually publish the data, but should make it harder to find.

Some websites allow users to submit information removal requests directly but generally make it difficult to do, which is why services like DeleteMe will make bulk removal requests to data brokers for a not insubstantial subscription fee.

Since data brokers may reacquire an individual's data, removal requests often have to be repeated annually, but Google might now take over a section of that work with the updated system.

Saucy snaps are on the table too

Google has also revised its explicit imagery protection to blur adult content or graphic violence that the mega-corp surfaces through its search results pages.

With this update, explicit imagery — such as adult content or graphic violence — will now be blurred by default when it appears in Search results. According to Romain, the SafeSearch blurring setting is being rolled out this month and can be disabled through the SafeSearch settings page. In addition to Blur, and Off, there's a Filter setting that will block explicit content.

Google is also expanding its longstanding policy of allowing people to request the removal of non-consensual explicit imagery from Search. The biz now offers the ability to ask for the removal of so-called revenge porn that was initially published with consent and then removed, but was copied without consent and continues to be accessible online.

One exception is "content you are currently commercializing" – Google isn't keen on helping resolve adult industry copyright disputes. ®

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