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Google Search made a huge change for people who get doxxed

Published Apr 28th, 2022 11:11AM EDT
Google Search History
Image: Google

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Media-Twitter has spent the last several days gripped by a provocative story in The Washington Post that unmasked the owner of “Libs of TikTok”. That’s the name of a controversial TikTok account that has become something of a rallying point online for conservatives.

Because of that, Post reporter Taylor Lorenz decided that the Internet needed to know the name of the person behind it. That led to round after round of online discourse. Largely, about whether what Lorenz did was tantamount to doxxing the Libs of TikTok creator.

So what’s this got to do with the Google Search announcement we alluded to? Well, these events aren’t related — at least, not directly. But you can’t help but note the timing of a new announcement from the search giant, which decided to take this moment to let victims of doxxing know the following.

Google is now promising to help them remove even more personally identifiable information from Search results.

“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,” reads a company blog post penned by Michelle Chang, Google’s Global Policy Lead for Search. “That’s why we’re updating our policies to help people take more control of their online presence in Search.”

For many years, Chang continues, people have been able to ask the search giant to take down certain sensitive, personally identifiable information. Essentially, ensuring that information doesn’t show up in a Google Search result.

Google says this is to combat instances of doxxing, for example. And when details like bank account or credit card numbers show up in Search results. Data like that, of course, can lead to financial fraud if it ends up in the wrong hands.

“The Internet is always evolving”

Data on computer screen
An illustration of data on a computer screen. Image source: gonin/Adobe

Under the expanded policy, users can click right here to request the removal of additional types of information from Google Search results. This includes details such as personal contact information along the lines of a phone number, email address, or home address.

Google’s expanded policy also allows users to request the removal of even more information.

The expanded policy includes data that could open up a person to potential identity theft if shows up online. Information in this category includes things like log-in credentials appearing in Search results.

The important word here, however, is request. That’s not the same thing as a blanket guarantee Google will remove your data from Search results. But at least it’s a start.

“On Google Search,” Chang’s blog post reads, “we already have a set of policies that allow people to request the removal of certain content from Search, with a focus on highly personal content that, if public, can cause direct harm to people. But 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.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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