February 23, 2024



CNN
 — 

Google unveiled new privacy updates this week that lets US users have a wee bit more control over the search results that pop up about themselves online.

The tech giant said that it was rolling out a new dashboard that will let you know if web results with your contact information are showing up on its search engine. “Then, you can quickly request the removal of those results from Google — right in the tool,” Danielle Romain, the vice president of Trust at Google, said in a blog post Thursday.

Romain added that Google will also notify you when new results from the web containing your contact info appear, for added “peace of mind.”

Google also said it was enabling people to remove any of their personal, explicit images that they no longer wish to be visible in its search engine. For example, if you uploaded explicit content to a website and then subsequently deleted it, you can request its removal from Google’s Search if it’s being published elsewhere without your approval. The policy doesn’t apply, however, to content you are commercializing.

“More broadly, whether it’s for websites containing personal information, explicit imagery or any other removal requests, we’ve updated and simplified the forms you use to submit requests,” Romain said Thursday.

“Of course, removing content from Google Search does not remove it from the web or other search engines, but we hope these changes give you more control over private information appearing in Google Search,” she added.

The moves by Google are essentially limited, but a step toward a US-version of Europe’s legally mandated “right to be forgotten” laws. The US updates do not currently, however, go beyond the scope of personal explicit images or contact information. Digital privacy advocates have long lamented how US policy lags far behind the European Union’s approach. An EU court established the right to be forgotten via a ruling in 2014, though the same court said in 2019 that Google does not have to honor the right outside of the EU.

The privacy updates unveiled by Google this week, however, notably lack any mention of the latest privacy battleground in Big Tech: generative AI. As companies scramble to create large language models, the technology that underpins generative AI tools, many users and privacy advocates are now imploring tech companies to give users a way to opt-out of having their digital data used to train AI tools.

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