Google is taking a step forward in enhancing the right to privacy and safety for its users.
The search engine giant will soon allow internet users to remove their personal information from search results — including phone numbers, emails and home addresses.
The announcement was made on May 11 during the technology company’s annual I/O developer conference, according to TIME.
The new tool is expected to aid users in getting their personal information removed from search results more quickly, and it’s scheduled to become available in the months to come.
“People are worried about threats, they’re worried about things like identity theft, or they’re just generally not comfortable with their personal contact information being out there,” said Google’s public liaison for Search, Danny Sullivan.
“The internet has given us easy access to all sorts of information [that] used to be hard to get. But that’s also caused people to have concerns about privacy and how they manage their information online. This is us trying to give people some sense of having more control over that.”
Google users can currently request their private information be hidden from search results via the company’s support page, but only if the search results fit into the categories listed below:
- personal information that creates significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, or other specific harms
- non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images
- involuntary fake porn
- content about you on sites with exploitative removal practices
- select personal identifiable information (PII) or doxxing content from Google Search
- images of minors
- irrelevant pornography from Google search results for your name
- content for specific legal reasons, such as DMCA copyright violation reports and child sexual abuse imagery
There are many reasons why one might want their personal information removed from Google’s search results — the most prevalent being protecting your privacy.
With the ever-evolving progression of internet and aspects of our personal lives being displayed online now more than ever, instances of stalking via the use of technology, doxxing and cyberstalking have all become more common.
The DOJ’s Office of Justice Program describes cyberstalking as when “one internet user [is] harassing, threatening, and stimulating fear in another internet user.”
Relatedly, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), highlights that the use of technology to stalk someone may look like the following:
- Persistently sending unwanted communication through the internet, such as spamming someone’s email inbox or social media platform
- Posting threatening or personal information about someone on public internet forums
- Video-voyeurism, or installing video cameras that give the stalker access to someone’s personal life
- Using GPS or other software tracking systems to monitor someone without their knowledge or consent
- Using someone’s computer and/or spyware to track their computer activity
Information like your phone numbers, emails and addresses being removed from search results may also translate into a heightened level of protection from IRL stalking, particularly for victims of abuse.
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Stalking is a targeted pattern of behavior “that would cause a reasonable person to fear for [their] safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress,” according to The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center (SPARC).
Stalking is often left out of conversations concerning intimate partner violence, although “the vast majority” of victims are stalked by someone they know.
As MADAMENOIRE has detailed in past coverage, Black women are uniquely vulnerable to intimate partner violence due to several factors.
While data on Black women who are stalked is scarce, one report states “nearly 1 in 5 Black women (20%) experienced stalking in their lifetime.”
Additionally, “about 16% of Black women were stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime.”
The information compares to the CDC’s statistic that comprehensively, 1 in 6 U.S. women will experience stalking.
Read more about Google’s current policies on removing personally identifiable information from its search results here.
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