Finding your personal information in Google search results can be a scary and confusing experience. Beyond wondering how the information got there, you’re stuck figuring out how to remove the information as soon as possible, lest things get weird. Google is introducing a way to make the second portion of that dilemma a whole lot easier.
The search engine’s new “Results about you” menu item has one purpose: to make removing personal information quick and easy. First announced at I/O 2022 in May but rolled out just this week, the addition constitutes another notch in Google’s larger effort to help users protect their personally identifiable information (PII).
The menu item appears to be rolling out gradually, hitting Android users first. If your search experience has been updated, clicking the three-dot menu button next to a search result will reveal a new option called “Remove result.” Selecting this option will lead you through the process of telling Google what type of PII is disclosed in the result. There’s also a new page called “Take control of results about you,” where you can keep track of your removal requests and learn more about finding your own PII in search results.
Google’s new removal wizard specifies that when a result contains at least one form of contact information, the company can review the takedown request more quickly. Having worked for a couple of tech companies’ trust and safety teams in the past, I’m guessing a small team of report slingers will be dedicated to the “Results about you” section—or at the very least, that these types of reports will be bumped to the top of the queue. Google did, however, warn that there are certain cases in which it will keep results public. “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,” the new webpage notes.
Even when a request is approved and a result containing PII is taken down, it doesn’t mean your information has been wiped from the web. Google recommends going to the host site and requesting a takedown there directly when you’re comfortable doing so.