Google helps you remove links that expose your personal info and put you at risk

Google is implementing a new help form to request the de-indexing of links that lead to information that could cause harassment or physical violence.

A web page reveals personal information about you? For example, does it leak your telephone number, your postal address or a copy of your identity card? You have the option of notifying Google, in order to obtain the withdrawal of the said page from the search engine, and thus protect yourself from possible malicious actions.

Google facilitates the removal of links related to “doxxing”

The American company announced on April 27 that it was expanding the conditions under which pages can be removed from its index, if a legitimate reason is given. The dissemination on the net of information which can be attached to the identity of a person, and which can be used to harass him or find him physically, comes under this scenario.

This type of assistance already exists in Europe, for example, via the right to be forgotten: this allows individuals to request the removal of a link that is unfavorable to them, on the grounds that they have the right to no longer be connected to something embarrassing. The right to be forgotten is not always followed, because Google must also arbitrate between the interest for the public to know things, a complex balance to find.

In short, Google is targeting everything related to “doxxing” here. Doxxing is an English term designating the disclosure of personal data with the intention of harming a person. To understand the risk of this type of leak, it should be noted that the assassination of Samuel Paty was facilitated by the dissemination of information concerning him on social networks. The law specifically punishes doxxing ever since.

The removal of content related to doxxing must meet two criteria:

  • Your contact details are there.
  • One of the following is present: Explicit or implicit threatsWhere incentivesexpress or implied, to harm or harass others.

If Google responds to a user’s request, keep in mind that the offending page will simply disappear from the search engine — it can no longer be found with queries. However, the web page itself does not disappear from the net. For this, it would be necessary to contact directly the manager of the site or the company which provides him with a hosting service.

Google can only act on its search engine. But it is already an important support to protect oneself. // Source: Oneshoot / Nounproject

In fact, it can still be found by typing its URL, by browsing the rest of the site (which is not removed in its entirety, just the page in question), or by going through another search engine, whether Bing, DuckDuckGo, Qwant or another — unless, of course, you repeat the procedure elsewhere, with no guarantee that it will go through. But what Google does is still useful.

Google’s criteria

Google remains the most used search engine in the world and by far in many countries. In many cases, the removal of a doxxing web page can be expected to greatly reduce exposure to personal risk. Google accepts several criteria to clean its index. The search engine mentions:

  • Confidential official identification numbers;
  • Bank account numbers;
  • Credit card numbers;
  • Images of handwritten signatures;
  • Images of IDs;
  • Sensitive and restricted official documents, such as medical records;
  • Personal contact details (physical addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses);
  • Confidential login credentials.

Not all requests will be automatically accepted. A procedure is planned to prevent abuse: a list of links must be communicated, as well as the search pages that lead to them. Google will examine the request, as for the right to be forgotten, in order to avoid abuse. Here too, the balance will not always be obvious and frictions are to be expected.

In addition to doxxing and the right to be forgotten, Google also provides help tools for Internet users facing other types of problems.

This can be the removal of photos of minors on the Internet (not related to child pornography, but simply a photo of a child), “fakes” and “deepfakes” (in short, photomontages or fake videos you featuring in pornographic content), “revenge porn” or to avoid a possible namesake in the world of porn.

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