Google’s “results about you” tool, meant to simplify the process of removing search results that contain personally identifying information, is starting to roll out to some users, according to a report from 9to5Google. Google announced the feature earlier this year during its I/O conference, saying that it’d be coming to the Google app.
Google already had a way to remove search results that contained your home address, email address, or phone number, along with a host of other types of potentially dangerous or damaging information. That system wasn’t necessarily the easiest to access or use, though. If you found a search result that linked to your sensitive information, you’d have to go to a support page and fill out a form containing the URL you wanted to be removed from the search results.
With the new tool, you’ll be able to directly make a request from the search page; if you see a search result linking to a page with your info on it, you can tap the three-dotted button next to it to access the “About this result” panel, which will have a “Remove result” option. From there, you’ll be able to submit a request to have that result removed.
There’s also a “results about you” screen that you can get to by tapping your profile picture in the Google app, which lets you track the information removal requests you’ve made and see their status. According to 9to5Google, you’ll also be able to start a new request from this screen for various other search result removal requests, too, including ones that contain outdated or illegal info. As Google notes in its support document, this process only deindexes those webpages from its search results; someone could still access that info if they went directly to the site where it’s posted.
Google didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment on how long the rollout would take to complete.
Earlier this year, Google updated its policies around removing personally identifying information. The change was relatively complex, and you can read more about it here, but the simplified version is that it lowered the bar for what Google would remove. The old rules let you get personal contact info removed from search results if someone was trying to dox you, but the review process involved asking whether those results could actively cause you harm. That process still exists but the one for removing personally identifying information is less strict; as long as it’s not “determined to be of public interest,” it should get removed from the results.
This new tool doesn’t change the actual process — it just makes it a lot more convenient to access. Given that finding your address or phone number in a search result could be pretty jarring, making it hard to remember where to find the form to get it taken down, it’s good that Google’s making it easier for people to start the process.