By Paresh Dave
OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – Alphabet’s Google has begun responding to requests to remove search results containing home addresses, phone numbers and email accounts, the latest change in its stance on personal privacy.
The world’s most-used internet search engine said on Wednesday its policy change followed growing user demand and evolving norms about the threat posed by easy access to contact details.
“Research has told us that there is a greater amount of personally identifiable information that users consider sensitive,” Michelle Chang, global policy leader for Google search, said in an interview. “They are increasingly reluctant to tolerate this content online.”
Until now, Google only accepted requests to remove pages that shared contact information along with some sort of threat or payment required for removal. The site also removed links to bank and credit card account numbers and medical records.
The company has received thousands of applications in recent years, approving about 13% of them. Chang said he expects the pass rate to grow under the new rules, which also allow removing links to sensitive login credentials.
Google’s older policies allow for the removal of results targeting unwanted pornography and, in Europe, “inaccurate, inappropriate, irrelevant or excessive” personal information. Last year, Google started allowing the removal of photos of minors.
Chang said Google intends to preserve the availability of public interest data. Nor will it remove information that “appears as part of the public record on government websites or from official sources.”
The web pages that Google discards can still be accessed through other search engines or directly, and Chang said users are encouraged to contact publishers to resolve “the root of the problem.”