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Google users can now ask to have their explicit photos removed from search results

TechnologyGoogle users can now ask to have their explicit photos removed from search results

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The Google logo is seen during the Google I/O annual developers conference at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on May 10, 2023.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Google on Thursday rolled out a new policy that allows people to request that their personal, sexually explicit photos be removed from its search results.

The new feature is one of three updates that Google says are meant to give users more control over content about themselves that is available through its popular search engine.

“It’s just one of the many things we’re trying to do to help people feel control of their online experience,” said Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search. 

One exception to the removal policy is if the user is actively commercializing their explicit images, Sullivan said.  

Google previously allowed people to request the removal of explicit images that were shared without their consent.

The company also introduced a new dashboard Thursday that tracks when a person’s personal contact information appears in its search results, which the company says will make it easier for users to monitor and request the removal of information about themselves from Google search results. The tool will now alert users when new results pop up containing their contact information. 

Sullivan said that users in the U.S. will have access to the tool in English and that Google is working to bring the feature to more locations and in additional languages soon. 

Google also announced it will begin automatically blurring explicit images that appear in search results for all users globally, an update the company first mentioned in February for Safer Internet Day. 

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The SafeSearch blurring feature is meant to help “protect families from inadvertently encountering explicit imagery on Search,” Google said in a press release. Explicit images could involve adult, graphic or violent content. 

“It’s really meant to stick to our principles that we don’t want to shock or surprise people with things they wouldn’t expect,” Sullivan said.

Last year, Google launched a tool called “Results about you” that allows users to request the removal of their personal contact information from search results, including phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses. 

Google has been expanding the types of information users can ask to be removed from search results over the past few years. 

Users have long been able to request the removal of search links to their personal information like credit card numbers and government-issued IDs used in the context of doxxing, an act of sharing a person’s sensitive information for malicious purposes.  

Google can reject removal requests if they don’t meet policy requirements, which include if the information is professional rather than personal or was posted on a government or educational webpage. The company only removes information from its search results and not from the source.

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