The malicious practice of ‘doxxing’ – posting personally identifying information on the internet – has unfortunately become a rampant means of online retribution in recent years, and Google knows it.
The company has announced it is expanding existing reporting tools to enable the public to request takedowns of search results featuring their phone number, web app logins and physical addresses. The update today also covers images of ID documents like a passport or driver’s license.
This expansion joins existing tools which enabled users to request takedowns of potentially damaging items like pictures of your signature, bank details and credit card numbers, or confidential official records – like your medical information or tax information.
“The availability of personal contact information online can be jarring — and it can be used in harmful ways, including for unwanted direct contact or even physical harm. And people have given us feedback that they would like the ability to remove this type of information from Search in some cases,” Google says in a blog post.
When it receives the request, Google says it will evaluate on merit, but won’t take anything down that’s a matter of public record, or that’s broadly considered to be useful information (like news articles). It also points out that removing the information from Search won’t remove the content from the internet itself.
“The internet is always evolving – with information popping up in unexpected places and being used in new ways — so our policies and protections need to evolve, too,” Google adds.
“Open access to information is a key goal of Search, but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private. That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search.”
Google has been gradually adding tools to enable users to get potentially damaging information removed from search results, including revenge porn and outdated content that could be harmful to individuals.