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Google introduces new tool to help remove search results with personal information

Google's new Results About You tool gives Australians greater control over their personal information.

Google's new Results About You tool gives Australians greater control over their personal information. Photo: Getty

Google has launched a new tool for Australians to control their online presence, allowing users an easier path to check and remove personally identifiable information.

The Results About You tool was launched to coincide with Privacy Awareness Week and allows users to request the removal of search results that contain phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses.

Lucinda Longcroft, Google’s director of government affairs and public policy, said the feature will “give Australians greater peace of mind about how they show up online and provide people with more accessible tools to easily protect their safety and privacy”.

“At Google, we strongly believe in open access to information, and we also have a deep commitment to protecting personal information,” she said.

“Our hope is that tools like this will help Australians to better safeguard their information and identity online and help people to protect themselves from doxxing as well as cyber and financial fraud.”

How does it work?

Using the tool, Australians can request the removal of search results that contain personally identifiable information and set up alerts for future search results containing the information.

The Results About You tool is available on mobile and in an internet browser. Photo: Google Australia

“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,” Longcroft said in a blog post.

“Removing contact information from Google Search doesn’t remove it from the web, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you’re comfortable doing so.”

Users have been able to request the removal of personally identifiable information previously, but the tool allows proactive action and alerts to be set up.

The tool allows alerts if new search engines containing personal information appear. Photo: Google Australia

Fighting doxxing

The Albanese government announced it would strengthen laws against releasing people’s private information online, following the publication of Jewish Australians’ details in March.

When it completed its review of the Privacy Act in September, it agreed to create a right to erasure and to be forgotten online.

The European Union introduced right-to-be-forgotten laws in 2014, where people can ask organisations and platforms to erase their data if specific criteria are met, although a 2019 ruling found that Google did not have to apply the law globally.

The EU requires the data to no longer be needed in relation to the purpose it was collected for, an individual to withdraw consent for the data to be used or if the personal data was processed for direct marketing and the individual withdrew consent before meeting the criteria for removal.

Longcroft said Google supports the Australian government’s commitment to combat doxxing, despite the company successfully arguing against having to enforce the right to be forgotten globally.

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